Engaging Students #etlead

“Just want to be here.”  This was Jay Leno’s advice to up and coming actor Matthew McConaughey during his first appearance on the Tonight Show.  I believe that it rings true to teaching, also.  I believe in the beginning, most educators really want to be teachers.  However, I have met many experienced teachers who seem to have burned out over the years.  Yet, they continue to teach.  They have boring classrooms with demanding rules and lifeless lessons. Dave Burgess talks about having passion and enthusiasm.  This starts with wanting to be there.

Do we need innovation to make our lessons engaging?  I am sure it would be helpful, but not necessary.  Sites like Make Math More and Mathalicious continuously boast about their engaging lessons that “relate to students’ lives” and create “conversations around topics that students care about.”  These are great points, which are not new innovations at all.  Many of the things that Dave talks about in his book Teach like a PIRATE are not new ideas, but just a reminder of why we became teachers.

“Being engaging requires planning, preparation and presentation.” (Burgess, Teach like a PIRATE)  For me, presentation is key.  A couple of years ago, my husband heard this joke at work.  It starts as a story that draws you in and then gets you with the punch line.  He was never really good at telling the joke, but then neither am I.  But I always thought, if you heard this same joke from someone who really knew how to deliver it, then it would really get you – hook, line and sinker!  In Part II of his book, Dave introduces many “hooks” that are to be used to get the students to begin to listen.  Most of my classes are 50-55 minutes long.  You would think that is plenty of time to teach a lesson.  But lets face it, if we cannot get our students hooked into the lesson from the beginning, 55 minutes is not long enough to turn things around.  Luckily, most of the time, I am better at presenting a lesson than telling a joke.  Of course, I believe most of this is because I put a lot of planning and preparation into my lessons.  Therefore, by the time I step in front of the audience, its kind of hard for me to mess up the punch line.


3 thoughts on “Engaging Students #etlead

  1. Nicole Fuerst

    Your post really does remind me about why I wanted to teach in the first place and it was about wanting to be there/here/where ever. 🙂 I had a horrible experience with a teacher who should have retired long ago but kept teaching and it inspired me to want to teach. I realized that if I simply wanted to be there and cared about my students I’d be doing a better job than she. After 11 years of teaching, I’m in a place where I tell myself that I’m only going to sign my contract if I want to teach now. I don’t want to become that teacher. I’m sure she was burned out, strapped for cash, and felt like she couldn’t do anything else. That’s why I actually do other things. I pursue this master’s degree, I do contract work, and I participate in my community…so that if the time comes that I don’t get excited about signing that contract…I’ll turn to pursue something else and make way for someone who is passionate about teaching.

    Last fall, my supervisor was talking about “teachers as entrepreneurs”. He used it literally and as a metaphor to describe what we do. He said, “I think all teachers should have some sort of private business or do something on the side”. I shook my head and smiled at him because I was so overwhelmed with being a teacher that I couldn’t imagine doing some sort of private business too. A little over a year later, I can’t imagine not doing something else too. Doing something else keeps me from feeling trapped. Doing something else keeps me fresh and helps me approach teaching with a different perspective. Doing something else keeps me from being the burned out teacher who stays in teaching anyway.

    The New York Times did an article on this idea: http://www.nytimes.com/1995/05/31/us/new-breed-of-teachers-become-entrepreneurs-and-roving-innovators.html

    I’m curious to know what you think….

  2. kerigray2010

    Hi Brandi,
    I enjoyed reading your post. I can relate to telling jokes and not being able to deliver the punch line correctly and then ruining the joke. In Burgess’s book, Teach Like a Pirate, he mentioned so many ways to keep students engaged, his list was refreshing to think about and a reminder that variety is helpful to keep all students engaged. ” I want to inspire, to involve students in the learning.” (www.learningkeys.org)


  3. colin

    My problem is that I can’t remember more jokes than a couple. But from my friends who actually are able to get them across, it’s like a good narrative condensed down into a quick story. Hook them in quick! Build the suspense! Let them think they possibly know the answer – the audience has to demand resolution! Then finally let the punchline fall.

    Now if I could just remember any of those that my friends tell me….


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