Teaching in the Heartland

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Jun 22 2012

The Power of an Engaging Lesson

Tuesday, I’ll be honest with you, I walked out of the classroom feeling utterly defeated. If you were to see a video montage of me during class, it would look something like this: me running around, with devious eyes staring at me as they lure me to chase after them, images of me grabbing fists that are pummeling towards classmates, and me, wide-eyed with a cheesey grin on my face, singing songs about opening and shutting eyes, making airplane noises, and doing freeze dances.

Ultimately, I felt defeated because though hindsight is 20/20, I realized that my lesson plan was useless. It was boring for me, and I’m twenty years old…not three. One of my former teachers gave me the most valuable piece of advice-your behavior management skills are important, but will hardly be necessary if you’re engaging. Sounds simple, right? Be exciting, and they’ll listen. They will stop running, and they will watch you.

Today, I truly discovered the power of having an engaging lesson plan. The classroom went from mayhem to focused eyes and quiet mouths once I started reading. I feel like the term “reading” here is hardly representative of what it was-if you saw me, you would have thought I was acting. Or looney. Or some combination of the two. I was reading The Hungry Caterpillar, a book that literally describes the number of different food items that a hungry caterpillar consumes…By putting on my most enthusiastic voice, I was able to reign them in and regain control over the classroom.

Though my partner and I experienced some of the worst behavior we’ve ever seen this morning, I walked away feeling challenged and excited, not defeated. I walked away with the knowledge that if I truly try to engage them and if I invest myself wholly into my lesson and being a total goofball, I can¬†impact their behavior. I can¬†get them interested in learning. I heard it today when I asked them questions about the book and they paused and truly though about the answer, or when the others blurted it out because they were excited.

I’ll leave with a funny mental image-one that brings me to hysterical laughter and tears every time I think of it. There is this little boy in my class whose cheeks are so chubby that his eyes aren’t even open all the way. He is sassy, but loving. Yesterday, when I wasn’t in the classroom, my partner told me that he got up, put his palms flat on the rug with his bottom in the air….and pulled his pants down. Add that to my streaming video montage, and there you have it.

This is my life. And I love it.

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    Giving, Getting, Growing, & Grappling.

    Early Childhood
    Elementary Education

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