Before, the students were all eyes to the only source of information, YOU. As a teacher, you were like a sage, ready to give instruction and impart information where you were the sole source. However, as we move on to the 21st Century, gone were the days of “sages” and teacher-centered instruction. Students now depend on gadgets, technology, computers and internet and what they can offer or provide, as if teachers are needed anymore because in just one click, “Voila!” and everything you need to know are right in front of your eyes.
In class, you gaze around the classroom, recognizing that some students are into their cell phones. Others are in their laptops, perhaps taking notes or searching the net, but most likely using social media. A few are deliberately working on homework, assignment or projects for other subjects, while several are avoiding your eyes and one or two seem to be sleeping. Welcome to the public high school.
Stress, distractions, anxiety and social media torment a classroom making it difficult for teachers to teach, and more difficult for students to learn. Is there something that can be done or are we going to accept this as a new normal? Could positive concepts such as mindfulness, positive emotions, strengths, gratitude, and growth mindset improve a classroom? Well, they might!
Students who are stressed have more difficulty concentrating. It reduces their attention, memory and learning are some of the most obvious results of stress. But, we can combat this condition by using strategies that minimize negative emotions and increase positive emotions which will facilitate better learning. In addition, a more engaged class makes a better learning for both students and teacher.
So, what are some solutions to create a more conducive, fun and engaging classroom? What I do in my class is that I flex my lessons so that students have control on how and what they learn. For instance, E-portfolios and e-journals allow them to tell me what they learned and how they felt greatly help with the next lessons.
When we do feedbacks, I tend to help them understand that they already do well and that surely emits increasing engagement and positive emotions. Alternatively, I let them identify a certain strength and how they can reinforce it to do better next time.
Before starting my class, I usually help let focus on the lesson by using a song, picture, or image to help them explain how it relates to their learning. But of course, students will be more motivated and positive if they learn how to set and attain their own goals. I have them identify ‘big’ goals and then in each class, I have them set a smaller goal that contributes to their achievement of their bigger goals.
As much as I can, I design activities and assignments that facilitate self-reflections on the process of learning. I ask my students to submit a personal reflection along with an assignment indicating how they completed the assignment, what strengths they used, how they could use these strengths in upcoming lessons, or what they learned about themselves and their own learning.
At the end of class, have students write down three things they are grateful to have learned or to have experienced that day. I also encourage them to give a ‘shout out’ to a peer who helped them out during class or throughout the year.
We must not accept the distractions, stress, and anxiety as the new norm in public high school. We should be willing to at least give a try of the things I suggested or find those that fit you best. There’s nothing to lose and everything to gain by working towards a more “Positive You”!