Learning…I want that!: How Some Great Teachers Engage Their Students

I was watching TV with my five-year-old the other day.  Each commercial inspired a semi-frantic, totally exhilarated shriek of, “I want that!” (from him, not me).  When he was able to decipher the name of the product being advertised he inserted it as an introduction to the shriek.  At one point he actually called out, “OxyClean…I want that!”  Now this particular child does like to keep things neat, and he does pay attention to the details, but regardless, I find it difficult to believe that he was truly excited about getting his brights brighter and his whites whiter.  Who knows?

His unbridled enthusiasm had me thinking about the work of teaching and learning, and how that work connects in some ways to product development and marketing.  Just as advertising professionals work to engage people in excitement over their products, some of the excellent teachers I know do some of the following things to drive cultures of engaged and enthusiastic learning in their classrooms:

Get, and remain excited.  Something consistent about television commercials is that the people in them are excited about the products that they’re working to sell.  They stay excited the whole time.  Excitement is simply more appealing than a lack thereof.  It communicates that something is interesting.  It grabs attention.  It’s a good catalyst to engagement.  It’s, well…it’s exciting!

Offer quality.  Sometimes my wife and I will cave and order some of the useless junk that’s advertised in between the shows we let out kids watch.  Occasionally when we do, something shows up in the mail that turns out to be not so fun, not so interesting, and not so much of what it seemed to be when people were getting excited about it on TV.  Those things are brushed off pretty quickly.  The kids continue to get excited about the next things that come along, but when they’re no good, the excitement is squashed again.  When I see excellent teachers authentically excited about high quality instruction, I see authentic and sustainable enthusiasm from their students.  The outcomes match the offers.  Great teachers follow attention-getting suggestions with attention-keeping lessons and activities.

Know your audience.  Every day I witness the amazing teachers in my school intentionally building genuine relationships with the students that we serve.  Toy and game makers collect lots of data on kids so that they can generate an idea of what appeals to them.  Effective teachers do the same.  Ongoing formative data collection from various sources like one-on-one conferring, interest surveys, and ongoing dialogue could not be more important to a teacher’s ability to engage his/her students in meaningful learning.

So, if you’re getting and remaining excited about teaching and learning, consistently offering high quality instruction, and truly working to know the students that you serve, keep it up…and well done!  If not, you might consider giving it a try.  When I see those things happening I see classrooms where students, through their actions and unmistakable engagement, are shrieking “Learning…I want that!”

Live. Learn. Lead.


Dream Big. Work Hard. Be Well.

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