Teach Your Students to Set Goals! Teach students how to set short and long-term goals. This provides a great way for them to track their growth and be realistic about what they want to achieve. Consider these goals as a great behavior motivator. Keep the student goals digitally (Google docs) and let’s say you see them displaying behavior outside class. Walk up to them, pull up their goals and ask, “How is what you are doing right now going to help you achieve the goals you have set?” If your approach is authentic, it immediately signals to the student they are important to you and you DO have expectations of them. Having concrete goals and meaningful conversations with your students when they go off the rail, is a great way to practice accountability and ensure their future success.
Connecting beyond the walls of your classroom! Help with the school play/musical, start a game of pickup in the gym, sponsor a campus organization. Act as role model. Every student needs to know they have at least one protector in their lives. If not you, then enlist the aid of a fellow teacher or aide. Students admire and respect the “human being” you allow them to see. Kids will work harder for you when they know the “whole” person you represent. Show up at their events – sports, recitals, club displays. Even if your subject is not their favorite, they’ll work harder for you because they know you are invested in them. Make the students who NEED a protector the top priority as the start of the year. The protector need only to check in every couple of weeks but the student knows if they are in need, they can seek out their protector to listen.
Who’s the VIP in the life of your student? Every kid has someone in their life they look up to…mom, dad, grandparent, uncle, family friend, sibling…Find out who their VIP is. Let’s say you have a student who has no aspiration of a future beyond their 16th birthday. They plan to work at the family body shop owned by an uncle. They value money more than learning and being a leader. Reach out to the uncle and ask for his help to motivate the student to reach for something more. Remember, it takes a village. Never overlook how others can help you help your students. Get students to ask, “Why be the worker when eventually I could be the supervisor, leader, owner?” Help students vision their future.
Allow no student to be or become invisible! Don’t dog a specific kid, ride his tail, or worse, say nothing to him at all. The student feels he is not important, of no value to you, or you’ve given up on him. Don’t give up! Note his effort, praise his action, and help him understand how his investment in your classroom will help him in life. Watch carefully and see that no student or group is isolated. Connectivity and a sense of belonging are essential for learning to occur. This applies to every student in your class and even those outside of your class if you observe isolation. Every person is hard-wired for connectivity. Make it happen.
You’ve heard be seen and not heard…wrong! Be seen and heard! If you desire enthusiastic, hardworking students, how about you emulate that? When entering the building form the parking lot to the classroom and all points in between, say good morning, hello, how’s it going and model what you expect from your kids. If there is trash in the hallway, on the grounds, in the cafeteria, YOU pick it up. Let the kids see you setting the example. Students are smart and you can’t fake it with them. If you want them to take pride in their school, in themselves, then you be the first consistent example who shows them what respect and pride looks and sounds like. To get it, you must first extend it!
Know thy students! Ask about hobbies outside of school, weekend plans, favorite eating places, and acknowledge birthdays. We all want to know we are valued. When a person, regardless of age, realizes they are liked, belong, appreciated, and respected, their self-esteem and confidence will grow. We should all be teaching our students how to become confident decision-makers one small decision at a time!
Let’s hear it for the big “O” – OWNERSHIP! Give options in the classroom. Let the student(s) choose a project to complete, or in upper-level courses, create their own curriculum idea for a long-term study. At the beginning of the year, assign a “passion project” and allow students to display what they enjoy for the class. This will help you know the student more deeply and create some “go to” folks for other projects during the year. It will spark connections between students and create community in your classroom. If students become more confident decision-makers during their learning, they are more likely to commit to what they’ve chosen. Every opportunity you provide for them to choose is patterning their brain to say, “I am a decision-maker!”