So You Want to Inspire Your Students to Learn?
By Zach Bruner, Principal
What is the goal of our K-12 education system? I’d say it is to teach students the things they need to know in order to be successful as they move forward from grade to grade, and eventually beyond. In order for our students to perform at the best of their abilities, it is essential to inspire them to learn. But more importantly, it is important to inspire them to enjoy learning. Why? Because if they enjoy learning, then it will be less of a struggle for them to retain the information and ultimately put it to good use. I will never claim to have a simple solution to making learning fun and enjoyable, but hopefully I can provide some insight that will help us, as educators, inspire every student to become a lifelong learner.
So, how do you inspire students to enjoy learning?
Start by Really Getting to Know Your Students
It will be very hard to inspire your students at all if you do not take the time to get to know them. Ask questions, listen, and engage as much as possible because this will help you become a more effective instructor. This will also show your students that you care about them. For some students, you may be the only person that truly has their best interests in mind. Long story-short, getting to know every one of your students will make teaching the material easier for you and more meaningful to them.
Make the Lessons Relatable
Every student learns differently and all students have a unique set of interests, but you can find things that most of them have in common and make references in your lessons that relate to the students. You can also take the time to make unique references for specific students in order to peak their interest in the material. For example, if you’re teaching about the Grand Canyon and you know “Johnnie” and his family went there last summer, make reference to that. You could even allow “Johnnie” to speak about the trip and teach part of the class based off of his firsthand experience.
Give the students reasons to learn the material that are applicable to their lives. The chances of them retaining that information will be much higher.
Differentiate Instruction and Get Them Out of Their Seats
If you just stand at the front of the room, relay information to your students, and expect them to regurgitate that information, you will see minimal comprehension and meaningful application of the material. I know it takes a lot of time and energy, but try to research and come up with lesson plans that include plenty of differentiated instruction. Get your students out of their seats and allow them to learn by doing and participating as much as possible. The best teachers I ever had allowed us to learn in many different ways and that’s what all teachers should strive to do.
Model Lifelong Learning
Your students’ eyes and ears are on you all the time, so be sure to model the behavior of a lifelong learner. You can inspire your students to seek out learning and enjoy the process by showing them that you enjoy learning, no matter the subject. If students can see that you take an active interest in many things that continue your learning, it can inspire them to treat learning like a privilege and not a chore.
Our duty as educators is to create a process of learning that they can enjoy, while also getting them to meet the standards. It’s never going to be easy, but it is worth the work and creativity required to do so.
Zach is a proud husband to Skylar and father to Van. He has experience teaching social studies in both Missouri and Oregon and is currently a principal in Missouri. He is passionate about being an educator and inspiring students to learn. You can find more of his writing at https://medium.com/@Zbruner15 or his publication https://medium.com/the-world-we-live-in.
To be reminded why your work is so very important and for more stories and advice, visit our collection of teacher perspectives at The Art of Teaching.
Why do you teach? At McGraw-Hill Education we believe teaching chooses you. We call this the art of teaching. It’s…www.mheducation.com