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July-August 2021

Who has not experienced moments seeing that flash of interest in students’ eyes, smiling as the bell rings because the energy is so high and no one wants the period to end? How do we extend these moments? How do we create an environment that keeps students stimulated and craving more? How do we have more fun? How can we prevent ‘boredom’?

What is it that makes the learning experience boring? Students adopt a variety of strategies to cope with boring lectures. The most popular are daydreaming (75%), doodling (66%), chatting to friends (50%), sending texts (45%), and passing notes to friends (38%). One of the simplest and most effective ways to prevent boredom is to have fun yourself. If you are having a good time, chances are your students are too. So fun actually seems to promote learning by increasing dopamine, endorphins, and oxygen in the brain. The question is, how can we make teaching more enjoyable for ourselves in order to make learning fun for students?

DISCOVER NEW THINGS TOGETHER.

It’s much more fun for both parties when students and teachers learn new things together. Your job is, of course, to educate, but why can’t that process include the joy of shared discovery? Make a point each day of letting down your authoritative guard, humbling yourself, and enjoying the lifelong journey together –even if it’s just for a few minutes.

INCORPORATE MYSTERY INTO YOUR LESSONS.

Learning is fun when it’s surprising. Don’t just disseminate information; cloak it in mystery. Highlight the weird, the unusual, the unique. Ask questions. Start with a curious detail that can only be addressed by diving into the background of the subject and thoroughly exploring it. Pose a mystery at the beginning of the lesson and let your students work towards solving it.

BE GOOFY; SHOW YOU CARE.

Let loose; laugh; make fun of yourself. Don’t worry about sacrificing your authority. In fact, the latest research says authority stems from showing you care about your students, and making them laugh and feel good is one way to do that.

AVOID “GOING THROUGH THE MOTIONS.”

If you feel yourself slipping into a rut, spending the same hours exactly the same way each day, stop and reassess your teaching process. It’s so easy to let it all become automatic, especially after having been in the field for long, and use the same lessons and techniques year after year with different students. But if it’s not fun for you, it won’t be fun for your students either. Make an effort to be fresh, try new things, take risks, make mistakes, and enjoy the moment.

REVIEW –BUT DON’T REPEAT– MATERIAL.

It’s important for learning and memory to review new material regularly and to integrate it into the bigger picture shaped by old material. Spend an hour or two each week reviewing material from the past few weeks, but always position it within old material so that students see how it all fits together. Simply repeating new information represents a missed learning opportunity.

SHARE YOUR PASSIONS.

Passion is contagious. If you’re having a good time, chances are your students will too.

REPLACE LECTURES WITH CONVERSATIONS.

Why should teaching be so passive? Forget the sage on the stage and engage your students in a casual conversation like you would with a good friend. This doesn’t necessarily mean asking more questions, but it does require a stylistic shift whereby you and your students are actively exchanging ideas –not just responding to them.

PUT ON A PERFORMANCE.

Teaching is “a performance profession.” You don’t have to be theatrical (though that might help), but you do have to be self-aware.

MAKE YOURSELF AVAILABLE.

Keep your doors open after the bell rings. Make yourself available online for a while.

TRY BEING A STUDENT AGAIN.

Take a seat in the audience and let your students teach for the day.

TRY TO BE UNDERSTANDING, AND EXPRESS INTEREST IN OTHER COURSES STUDENTS ARE TAKING.

Think of it as an opportunity to strengthen students’ grasp of your subject by relating it to other disciplines.

Have a happy new school year!