I consider myself to be a pretty encouraging person in the classroom most of the time. I also know this is an area that even the most positive and encouraging teacher can improve in. At least all the human ones! Sometimes everybody is just tired or hungry, or tired AND hungry! And then other times, kids are having a such a tough time academically, socially, or otherwise that even the most patient teacher in the world feels like he/she is not going to make it through the day.
So I thought that since I'm off for the summer, it would be a good time to focus on a few ways to make this area of classroom life even better. I came up with a few of the things I contemplated and looked into. I cannot conquer the whole subject in this post. So for more info, this is a really good book on the subject. I hope you find this all helpful!
How to be Encouraging When Everybody's Tired
We all experience these days, and not just in the classroom. After a long weekend or vacation, everybody comes back to school. But while they are there physically, their minds are just not ready to be done with the long weekend or vacation.
Sometimes I felt like these days were insurmountable to get through. I also knew the kids and I were there for the day and we needed to get through it. For a long time, I just gritted my teeth and plodded through. And I know the kids were doing the same. But then I started thinking about it differently.
I started realizing that if they were having a hard time getting through the day because they just weren't ready to be thrown back into academics, maybe we could all just help each other ease into it.
We have all experienced that struggle where we kept on pushing through, often making things worse. Then we took a break because we just couldn't do another thing. After that break, the thing we had tried to to do for so long suddenly resolves right after being back at the task. If only we had taken the break to start with and not pushed through so stubbornly, thinking we could get through it with brute force.
So how does this relate to how to be encouraging in the classroom? It means not pushing the kids too far because we need to get through that lesson plan. It doesn't mean fooling around all day and doing nothing productive either. Although that would be such a fun day!
Maybe starting the day with a conversation about their time away from class would be a great transition. Focusing some of the day's activities on the vacation or weekend they just had could be helpful too. Making their creative writing about something they did or felt or experienced over the weekend would be a perfect way to keep them engaged. And they won't be struggling to figure out what to do with the content of an assignment related to their life because it is still fresh in their mind.
How to be Encouraging When Everybody's Hungry
If they're hungry--here is one super fun idea. Have some simple, school-approved snacks in a hiding spot so you can pull them out for a quick diversion. Just make sure that you get back to the subject at hand quickly. Then they won't realize they are off the track and decide not to get back on!
The best part of this is that you can do it if you are starving and the kids won't even know the difference. They will be grateful that you thought of them in that way.
Be sure not to communicate this as a reward. They may expect you to do this regularly upon them giving you some aspect of work. No teacher wants to end up being prisoner of a reward program.
That being said, I DO believe that rewards are appropriate for a job well done.
Motivational Posters that Show How to Encourage
I discovered this totally by mistake because I bought some posters for my own kids to display in my home. It worked! I admit, they thought the posters were "lame." But it didn't stop the conversation from happening.
Most of the time I didn't specifically connect the conversation to the posters. I kept them in prominent places around the house. The whole classroom is pretty prominent so that shouldn't be a problem for teachers. The fact that they had to look at them every day as they passed by worked for me. Then as opportunity knocked, I would bring up the points without beating them over the head with it. I doubt they even made the connection most of the time. But the reinforcement was definitely there.
Keep a Conscious Reminder of Encouragement on Your Desk
You can literally choose anything to use as a personal reminder. You can make it a decoration or something functional. And you can choose to keep its purpose secret or you can tell your class what it is for. Keeping it secret allows you to do it with them having no clue. But letting them know also shows them the importance of making encouragement a conscious decision.
Oh, and you don't even have to keep it on your desk. Put it anywhere that you would see it frequently during the day. But honestly, the more you do this, the more it will come naturally. By the end of the year, you probably won't even need it!
This is probably one of the biggest struggles for any teacher, regardless of the type of school he/she teaches in. I made a list of some polite ways to tell students to hurry up:
- Please try to finish in the next few minutes.
- Please try to finish in the next _ minute(s).
- It seems like you need some help.
- Would you like some help?
- How can I help you?
Let's see if we can finish this by (specify time).
I'm sure there are tons more ways to say it nicely, but this is a good start.
There are so many ways that we can be more encouraging in the classroom. But hopefully this was enough to get us thinking as we start to plan for the next school year. Let's make it a wonderful year for each other and especially our students!
For more tips on classroom life and teaching literature, check out my home page here.