We are living in a crazy time when the tools and techniques you may have learned long ago when you began your teaching journey is being tested more than ever. You thought your time for being tested was over? It has only moved from the keyboard to your spirit. As the year passes by, your patience, lack of sleep, frustration with online classrooms, dealing with infinite personality traits, your personal life – and ultimately your faith – may be, you guessed it, tested.
So how do you keep the sun shining in the online sphere when it’s only 8am and you are on your 5th cup of caffeinated beverage?
By this point your sensors for intake of “how to make it better” may be stuck in the off position. But take a breath. Don’t lose faith. The light is always shining even above the overcast clouds. And you can shine your light to all who are “in the house”. Here are a few techniques for you to try to get your students, and for those who teach family classes, their parents, back on board.
Not in the 80’s Aerobics Host VHS style of your parent’s childhood. And not in the Tom Hanks trying-to-coach-the-ditzy-blond-without-making-her-cry style in League of Their Own. This smile is the one that says “we are all in this together” or “Look, I’m showing up for you today and you are showing up for me. So, let’s do this.” A simple smile (usually) puts a person at ease, makes them feel safe to be in your presence, and can deflate a hovering fear in half. This comes naturally to some. To others it takes practice. You might need to become aware of your facial expressions. Worried about being fake? I’ve got that covered. Keep reading.
So, what if you don’t feel like smiling because you feel bad and tired or angry or depressed or frustrated? Well, this is where a friendly and humble, authenticity can be your friend. Ask the class how they are. “Anyone tired today?” “Feel like a nap?” “Whose got some energy?” “Can I have some of that?” [Smile] “Ok, well let’s see if we can turn this around – slowly!” You’ve acknowledged the reality that not all days are sprinkled with confetti but that you’re all are in this together. When you acknowledge the pulse in the room – whatever it is – without judgement – you can move through it and then shift it.
Do you see the children and parents (figuratively speaking)? Or are they just a sea of heads for the next 45 minutes until the next sea. Our neighbors need to feel they are seen within the sea. Acknowledged. Noticed. A very little goes a long way. Again – never disposing of our authenticity (while banking on the idea that it is your desire to be an agent for good in their lives.) All of this is to say – make the moment about them and for their good. Notice there is a difference in being self-effacing and self-deprecating and the two should not be confused. Self-deprecation (usually used with humor) is not a good idea in the long run. No one benefits from behavior that subliminally negates their own talent and skill.
Be Charitable and Gracious
This is a two way street and has a long shelf life in terms of “what goes around comes around.” When you are charitable with your smile, your patience, your energy, your skills and talents and when you are gracious – especially in the times when things aren’t going as planned – people remember. They remember how you made them feel in spite of the challenges. When you do this with consistency they learn and return the favor and want to be around it. It takes practice and a strengthening of a mental muscle but it worth the effort. And before long, there won’t be so much effort. Because you will be establishing an atmosphere of grace in the space.
Be a Connector
More than ever as we peer into the eye of the webcam to see the digital world’s idea of classrooms: squares, squares with heads, we need to feel connected. As a teacher, you are the leader in this arena. Take time to connect the students to each other. Play a name game, play an introduction game, find the similarities in their answers, find the differences and celebrate them!
When students and parents feel acknowledged, seen, heard, and connected to you and to each other this can go a long way to making your school year a success of the heart, mind and soul. So, take heart! Pick one of the suggestions above, try it out. Comment below how it worked out.
And remember, nowhere in this blog did I tell you to give up your coffee.