Educators today are faced with increasing administrative demands and changing academic expectations. For many, the time available for preparing lessons is diminishing. Over the years, I began to adjust the amount of content that I delivered in a 60-minute class. I realised that no matter how engaging I was; an endless set of PowerPoint slides was not appealing to students. A few years ago, I also began to shorten my syllabi. I moved to the philosophy of using a syllabus and the class lecture environment as a way to teach life lessons.
The following are a few lessons that I have tried to weave into the classroom environment.
Instead of looking for ways to punish that student who consistently shows up to class late talking on his/her cell phone, talk to them about respect. Pull them aside and ask them how they might feel if they were presenting and people walked in late during their presentation. Have conversations with them from the first day about respect. Let students know that you respect them. Ask that they return that respect to you and to their fellow students. Discuss ways in which a teacher and student can respect each other.
Actions have consequences
Each time I created a syllabus I deliberated on how to list the regulations for missed classes and assignments. An idea that worked was to have conversations with students about what they think happens beyond school when you miss deadlines. Students recommended harsher consequences for themselves. Ask students why they missed deadlines and how they think it should be handled.
This is a concept that we should focus more on inside and outside of classrooms. So much can be accomplished when we relate to each other instead of judging immediately. Students will notice if you are kind and if you care. They will share with others if you are not kind to them when they ask
for help. Kindness does not mean weakness. Additionally, to get students to perform does not mean that we must be firm and distant. Understanding where your students are coming from and listening to them are key steps in determining appropriate consequences for their actions.
This is extremely important. Be kind and respectful towards students but insist that when it comes to doing a presentation or to interacting with practitioners; they must be professional. Simple requirements like having them dress professionally for presentations will help them when they leave school. This is a skill that is important to any industry. Students will appreciate that you expect it in the classroom.
This is not an exhaustive list of life lessons for the classroom. The aim is to encourage educators to take a look at how we are interacting with students and how these interactions can be a powerful way to impart life lessons. Let’s create a dialogue about the types of life lessons being taught in classrooms around the world.
While we hope that students remember the course goals and our riveting lessons, it is more likely that they will remember how you treated them.
By Dr. Jan L. Jones
Dr Jones (Ph.d.) has over 10 years of full time teaching and advising experience in leisure, sustainable tourism and global education. Her research has taken her to Cuba, Portugal, Germany, Ireland, Jordan, Jamaica, Cyprus, and Crete.