In order to learn something new, students need to obviously be motivated – but they also must feel safe. When learning how to drive a stick-shift, my instructor used to shrug when I stalled at stop lights. “It happens,” he would say. My previous instructor wasn’t so understanding, and as a result I stalled a lot more. As teachers we need to make sure students feel supported, even when they make mistakes. Here are a few tips for making sure all students feel supported when learning something new:
1) Be patient
Be ready for the learning process to take a little (or a lot) longer than you predict. Be patient and stay consistent in your teaching.
2) Set an example
It doesn’t matter how many times you say “It’s okay to make mistakes”, getting upset when you make a mistake sends the opposite message. Set an example by keeping your cool.
3) Take an evening class
Taking a class gives you insight into what it’s like to be in your students’ shoes. For example, I hate it when my night-school teachers choose my groups or partners for me. Not because I want to slack off with my buddies but because I am inhibited by working with strangers. You also forget how scary it is to have a new teacher and how long it takes to get comfortable.
4) Encourage humor
Try to add some humor to your lessons! When I teach digestion, I make ‘cat food’ out of Mars bars and orange jello. I force it through some tights/hose, while narrating the digestive system. When I’m done I lick my finger. Not only do students remember that lesson for a long time but it makes for a warmer atmosphere in class.
5) Help the bullies
Young people who victimize others are usually the ones that feel insecure. I had a class of students who would pepper the air with put-downs. I found out their strengths and praised them, as frequently as possible. As they grew in self-confidence, they attacked each other far less.
I hope you will share more ideas in the comments!