Friday, March 22, 2013

Year 3: Week 25 – Taking Yourself Too Seriously

As I sat in front of my class with one recorder in each of my nostrils playing both of them at the same time, the advice, “Always take your job seriously, but don’t take yourself too seriously, “ echoed in my head.

Teaching is not a place to try to be cool. Quite the contrary, the best teachers are the ones who have absolutely no hesitation to make a complete fool of themselves if it means that it will help students learn.

Sometimes teachers build up this facade. They try to be a serious academic scholar in the front of their kids. This stems from the whole idea that teachers have to be super strict in the beginning of the year and not smile. Also many teachers are more concerned about the image of who they are as a “teacher” more than what they need to do to help their students learn.

I’m not saying be goofball in front of your kids, but don’t try to be something that you are not. More importantly when you do something funny by accident and kids laugh, laugh along with them.

For example, if you are explaining a concept and you fumble over the pronunciation of a word, laugh at yourself and let your students join in. If you trip over an extension cord and make a funny looking stumble. Go ahead and let your kids have a little fun at your expense. It’s okay, it lets them know that you are human and that it's okay to make mistakes.

It’s counter-intuitive, but often it’s the teachers who are willing to do ridiculous and silly things who are the most respected and effective teachers.  My wife had a teacher who would dress up in clothes of different cultures depending on what he was teaching. I’ll never forget my orchestra teacher who would have the silly dances to help explain rhythmic patterns.

The reason these teachers are memorable and meaningful is because they were willing to show their students the entire range of who they were as human beings. They were serious when they needed to be but they also knew that life and learning is sometimes about having fun and letting go of your ego.

When you are willing to dress up funny, do a silly dance or share some kind of embarrassing experience with your students you are communicating a very special message. You are saying that you care about your students so much that you are willing to make a complete fool of yourself on their behalf.  Your are saying that your dignity is secondary to their learning.   

Pick a time to do something really silly in front of your students.  It's a hard thing to do, but it's worth taking that chance.  It forces you to put aside your ego and once you do that, then you will begin the shift from being a "teacher" for your own self image to being a teacher for your kids. 

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