You enjoyed your brief time off as an educator this summer, but now it's back to work. If you're like me, you look forward to being with your students again. You have a super important job. No pressure. You're only educating the future of our country. This summer you've planned, updated curriculum, all while common core was on your mind. Somehow you know that's not enough. There's pressure from administration, local board of education, and even your own pressure to perform. You're determined to make this your best year yet. You have a lingering thought. You can only control what happens in the classroom with your students.
There are factors outside of your control that affect the academic performance of students. You have to deal with it as it comes. You wish you had the time and bandwidth to do youth development. Beyond all of those academic lessons, students need it. Youth development helps your students develop communication and problem solving skills. It also provides much needed enrichment and social skills. Even the best intentioned educators overlook youth development with students. I've seen what that oversight does to a school and a student. It can demoralize students, frustrate the staff, and ruin a school culture. Here are a few things to do this year so you don't blow it with your students.
Bring in partners:
You may have all the energy, ideas, and experience as an educator, but don't underestimate the power of outside help. Local after school programs and education organizations are amazing resources for your classroom and can enhance what you're already doing to bring out the best in your students. My organization partners with schools to engage students through project based learning. We recruit and train young professionals as coaches to run our programs. The coaches act as advocates for struggling students and play the role of mentor and cheerleader in the school community.
Build your own community:
More than ever, there's a huge spotlight on education. Recruit working professionals, entrepreneurs, and college students as your own mentoring community. They can help motivate students to stay on track, work hard in school, and inspire them to college. Your community can do career days, homework help, or work on a project with your students. Your students will love you too because you brought in all these "cool" adults.
Think outside of the classroom:
Sometimes the lesson plan isn't resonating with the students. Go outside! Go to the roof of your building. Go to the park. Do yoga or meditate! The fun part about being an educator is being able to take many roads to lead to the same outcome. STOKED, also uses skateboard building to teach science and math concepts. Students use their hands while increasing critical thinking, collaboration and communications skills.
Students need a various levels of engagement to stay motivated to succeed at schools. There are many factors you have to deal with as an educator. The pressure of a student's family and their peers. The speed of technology and social media. The top down approach to the education system. All things out of your control. The one stable but flexible factor in their life should be what happens in your classroom. They should look forward to your lessons and learning. Following the advice above will deliver happier and more motivated students.
What are you doing this school year? Would love to hear more ideas.