So often we as educators feel pressured to say the right words, when in fact students are often better watchers than listeners. I notice particular trends with my students that have nothing to do with what I am asking them to do, but more so with what I am doing on a day to day basis.
I am going to focus on 2 areas where we as educators can "do" in order to get our students to become leaders in the classroom. It's time we start walking the walk.
Setup for Success
How do we setup for success in the classroom? In the music education setting this is a phrase that I use quite often. It could be physical to the space such as an arrangement or placement. It could also be a pedagogical setup. When working on a new exercise, chorale, or section of music I remind my students of what elements are necessary for success. It could simply be having a plan for the day which is centrally focused on student learning. Whatever it is, it is a recipe for achievement.
The physical space in the band room where I teach is the blank canvas which will eventually become a masterpiece. I take pride in the appearance and organization of my room and have the same expectation of my students. Are the chairs setup in an organized fashion? Are the music stands straight? Is the percussion section appropriately setup for the upcoming? Are the number of chairs in each row appropriate? The physical space is the launching point for success. I have found that students take pride in appearance and structure. There are times when I enter the band room and magically the stands and chairs are placed for the next class. To my surprise a student has done this. Actions over words... This is not my space. This is our space and we come to learn and paint our masterpiece.
Another way we setup for success is preparing ourselves for achievement. We first look through our music and decide which areas are the most challenging. From there we break down the fundamentals of those areas and make them pristine. They become simple when looked at in a micro setting. As we then look to play the entire excerpt, success seems to come easy. What was once unattainable is all of the sudden a problem solved.
No matter how an educator (or anyone for that matter) sets up their environment for success, we know that a little prep goes along way. If we expect our students to connect in the classroom, we must connect. If we expect greatness, we must be great. Often times more is said in silence than in words.
Check out this article on the "path of least resistance." It's a great resource for ideas on how to better the physical classroom environment.
Setting Students Up For Success
If at First We Don't Succeed...
Take pride in the failed attempt. Why do we feel we have to be perfect. Some of my greatest moments as a educator have come from my greatest failure. Once we accept that we are not perfect and will fail (and often at that) we become more focused on what is important... ...educating our students. This goes the same way with colleagues. Those that are talked about the most are often those that take the greatest risks... ...and fail! We are not in teaching to show we don't make mistakes. We are in teaching to encourage our students to try new things and take risks even if they might fail.
I enjoy greatly when a student in my class catches me making a mistake. I make no notice of it and move on. Through my actions I try to show them that it is okay to make mistakes. "If my teacher tries and fails why not try?"
Check out the video below of 2 former presidents discussing the importance of trying and being willing to fail...
People search out role models and examples to follow. We are constantly bombarded with people telling us what to do and how to act, and so are our students. Actions speak louder than words. Let's as educators focus on what we are doing instead what we are saying. Recall the 2 ways we can go about doing this in our classroom. First setup our environment for success. A little prep goes a long way. Second, teach our students that it is okay to fail. We don't know what we don't try.
Onward we go!