“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.