Student Teacher Advice: Be Creative!

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Student Teaching: The Inside Scoop from a Master Teacher, is the culmination of my 37 years of teaching with an emphasis on the Three C’s for Classroom Success (and beyond):  Confidence, Communication, and Creativity.  Today’s focus is on Creativity, an essential ingredient of teaching and classroom management.

Teachers in today’s schools must compete for students’ attention with many outside influences, especially electronic.  Students are accustomed to the instant gratification of answers on the Internet and the immediacy of texting.  Of course, learning is not usually lightning fast with instant rewards, but that does not mean that learning is boring.  Learning can always be exciting when teachers are creative in their approaches to lesson planning and presenting.   I want you to think back to some of your favorite teachers.  They were probably favorites because class was “fun” and you connected with both the subject and the teacher.  What made their classes so special? Did they use a great anticipatory set that “hooked” you as a learner and reeled you in? Did they show you the importance of learning as well as explain how the learning would impact your life? Were the presentations student-centered, and did the teacher encourage positive interactions between the students?

I truly believe that good teachers can make any student want to learn, even the reluctant learners.  Creating an intriguing anticipatory set can whet the appetite for learning; giving hints about what comes next can be positively tantalizing for students.  For example, I taught To Kill a Mockingbird for 35 years, and many of the students in my English classes told me in no uncertain terms that they absolutely hated reading. Since the study of a novel is all-encompassing, and since many of the reluctant readers were interested in other facets of learning (just not reading), I created lessons about U.S. history and the Great Depression; the lack of civil rights in the 1930’s; social mores of the time; and many other activities.  I peppered my closing remarks in class with teasers about a possible upcoming appearance by Boo Radley, Scout’s inability to keep her fists in her pockets, and Dill’s upcoming silly adventure.  All of these captivating tantalizers kept students reading. Perhaps my greatest coup during this unit was the creation of an auditory experience for the students, in which my late husband and I played all of the characters in chapters involving the trial of Tom Robinson.  (Scott and I were both veterans of the stage.)  Even the kids who said they HATED reading were on time for classes involving listening to the two of us with all of our character voices read through the trial scene.  I could stop the auditory tape as needed, explaining the court proceedings, asking students to use conjecture about possible outcomes, and predicting consequences and conclusions.  The testimony of each witness was thoroughly discussed, including the conflicts in testimony.  And guess what happened?  The students who hated reading suddenly became very interested in the book, and many told me that Mockingbird was “The best book I ever read.”

Creativity is also important when it comes to discipline and classroom management. As teachers, you will find that not all students can be approached in the same manner or disciplined in the same way.  I suggest that instead of just giving a student a detention or calling home, use creativity by asking the student how he thinks you should handle the problem he is causing.  It is always a good idea to explain to the problem student that his behavior is impacting the learning of others, and that you need his help to create a solution for correcting his behavior issues, without getting him into more trouble.  Because this strategy creates a bond of empathy between the teacher and the student, it usually works. The conversation usually goes something like this: “If you were me, what would you do with you?  Here I am trying to protect you by not calling home, and you are hurting my feelings by ruining my lessons and harming the learning of others.  You tell me what you think I should do” Putting the onus on the student and having him see his behavior from the teacher point of view is one good creative solution for inappropriate behavior.  When I employed this strategy throughout the years, the conversation usually ended with an apology from the student and the ceasing of inappropriate behavior. Sometimes, a little creativity teamed with caring works wonders.

Creativity will be an essential element of your classroom during student teaching and throughout your entire career.   Always be open to looking at issues through your students’ eyes, and be willing to present your creative ideas as part of your personal style of teaching.  Creativity will allow you to help students to love learning, which is the greatest gift a teacher can give to a student.

Best wishes in your student teaching experience and in your own classroom!

Dede Rittman

www.dederittman.com

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