Let’s be honest.
Not all teachers are interested in teaching ideas that can help them make a difference.
Simply, because for them, teaching is just a job. And there’s nothing wrong with it.
They are performing their duty well, doing everything that’s necessary to teach the best they can.
What if you’re not one of them?
What if you’re searching for effective classroom tips and management techniques to increase the involvement of your students?
What if you’re constantly trying to boost the morale of your class so that the students can perform their best in studies?
Then, you need to be a little more creative than ‘regular’ teachers.
Also, you would agree that trying to become a teacher students love and respect is no child’s play. It can be hard as hell at times (especially if you’re a new teacher). But believe me, there’s nothing to worry.
Just stay with me and I’ll show you how I did it, so you can do it too.
But before that, let me give you a little context so you can understand what I am saying better.
The real-life story you’re about to read has a lot to do with personality development of students because that’s where it all started.
You see, this blog, avdheshtondak.com is the result of a loving connection with my students at Subharti University, Meerut where I delivered personality development training. Here’s how it happened.
It was March 2010. One of my cousins had invited me for dinner. He had a plan to create media packages and sell them to colleges of North India. I had been working in media as a voice-over artist since 2003 and he thought we could work together.
The idea was to work something out that could benefit both of us monetarily. After the discussion was over, he asked me if I knew any personality development trainer. He had connections with a software training company in Noida, Uttar Pradesh, and the company was looking for a trainer to deliver personality development classes for students at Subharti University, Meerut.
At that time I was working with a female English trainer to record some educational stuff. Her name came to my mind, but I wasn’t sure if she would be willing to commute daily from Delhi to Meerut for 40 days. I assured my cousin that I’d talk to her.
And boy, can I forget that night? I was tossing and turning in bed like crazy. My intuition wanted me to take up that assignment while my logical mind was opposing the idea. Reason? Well, I had always been a socially shy guy. I rarely participated in any sports or speaking activity which required to be visible in front of a gathering. That was not my cup of tea.
But since I was into meditation for quite some years by then and I had learned to trust my intuition, I decided to take up the assignment. Next morning I informed my cousin.
He passed me on the mobile number of the concerned person. I talked with the guy and we finalized the details. He requested me to start the classes from the very next day. I said I wasn’t prepared and needed at least a day. (I was kind of curious-why they needed a teacher at such a short notice? 😕 )
He gave me the mobile number of the teacher I was replacing. I called her up to get some insights about the students. Apparently, I was the first person to inform her that she was being replaced. She was surprised to know that. When I asked about her experience as a teacher with students at Subharti University, she said, “You can’t handle those students. They are impossible. They just don’t listen to you. I don’t know how would you manage.” I thanked for her ‘encouraging’ words and disconnected.
I was a little confused as to why she had been replaced. What happened?
Later I came to know that her teaching style was kind of ‘different.’ Most of the times she used to talk with the students in English. Now, you see, Subharti University has a lot of students from rural backgrounds and English is not even their 3rd language. So, basically, there was a communication gap between the teacher and the students.
I also belong to Western UP and I could understand the situation the students were in. If there’s something that scares us is not a ghost or Jinn – it’s English. You see, Meerut is predominantly a rural area, and it has sort of a distance with English which is completely normal.
I also heard the students had approached the dean and offered 2 options – a) Refund the fee the students had paid for personality development classes, or b) Arrange a new teacher.
March 10, 2010, was the day I delivered my first PD class. On way to the college, one of the female teachers accompanying me asked, “Sir, what would you teach these students, do you have something prepared, some sort of strategy?” I replied, “Ma’am, preparing the key in advance without having a look at the lock is nothing but stupidity. I am prepared, but not in conventional sense.”
She advised, “Sir, these students belong to rural areas. They are not articulate enough and it’s no use frying your brains working on them. You just go, pass time talking some random stuff and come back. I feel it’d be worthless spending too much energy on these students.”
I replied back, “Ma’am, had passing time been my motto, I could’ve done that in Delhi only. Why cover almost 150 kilometres a day just to pass time?”
“There are many beautiful parks in my vicinity. I could’ve taken a girlfriend there to pass time chatting with her. You see, I am here to help my students. Isn’t that’s what a teacher supposed to do? Moreover, I am not doing them any favour; in fact, they’ll be doing me a favour by listening to what I had to say. Who wants to listen to poor teachers nowadays? I am getting paid to help them, and that’s exactly what I am going to do. And excuse me for being a little blunt, but ma’am, I think changing your attitude may help you see things differently. I seriously doubt you’d do any good to your students or yourself with this kind of negative attitude.”
One male staff member of the company accompanied me to the classroom. My first ‘class’ was in computer science branch, B.Tech 2nd year. He wanted to stay in the classroom while I delivered the talk. I requested him to leave as his presence was making me uncomfortable. He honoured my request and left.
So there I was, standing in front of 55 students. The class was anything but quiet. I was wondering if those students had ever heard the phrase “pin drop silence.”
Backbenchers were busy with mobile phones. Some were busy talking, while some others were staring at me. It was clear that getting their ‘undivided’ attention was the first thing I had to do. I was a little nervous because it was the first time I was standing in front of an audience that big. At first, I tried the conventional method-I yelled at them and asked to pay attention. They didn’t seem to care.
Seeing nothing happening, I changed my approach. I composed myself and stood there quietly for about a minute. Upon seeing me standing there quietly, the chatterboxes slowed down a bit. After about 2 minutes, there was complete silence. All the students were staring at me. I asked one of the students, “What do you understand by the term self-esteem?” He replied back and things started to roll.
That’s how my personal development coaching journey started. I had a small book on the subject of coaching. The book shone a light on an important insight. It said coaching is about them (the students) and not about you (the teacher). You need to focus on your students and not yourself.
From day one, I started learning to get into my students’ shoes so I could see the problems they face in the area of personal development. I also started reading books on motivation, self-growth and human growth potential with deep interest.
Since I had to commute from Delhi to Meerut daily, I had to get up around 4:30 in the morning. I used to board the metro from Nawada station in West Delhi at about 05:45 am. The company cab used to pick me from Noida city centre metro station at about 07:00 am. We used to make a stop at Laxmi Dhaba, near Meerut-Partapur bypass at about 08:15 am. After having a light breakfast (My favourite was potato and onion stuffed parantha with tea or sweet lassi). We used to reach the college campus at about 08:45 am. 09:00 am used to be my first class.
An interesting thing:
I noticed the college used to address classes as ‘lectures.’ I found that laughable. I mean, who wants to get lectured to? I know I don’t. So I never addressed my classes as lectures.
And now, the tips you can use as a teacher to make a difference in your students’ lives.
1. Make Your Students Laugh
Laughter is a wonderful icebreaker. It works like a charm to make the students and the teacher comfortable. I know because I had made it a point to make my students laugh the first thing. I had collected jokes, inspiring one-liners, witty incidences…whatever could do the trick. The first thing after greeting my students used to be a joke, a witty one-liner, or some poetry. The idea was to make the students feel at home. Laughter is an awesome way to comfort and open up your students, thereby preparing them for learning.
2. Accept the Fact that Not Every Student Wants to Progress
It can be hard for you as a teacher to accept that not every student wants to progress. Especially when you’re trying to motivate them to perform better in academics and related areas.
Majority of the students want to focus on studies. But there will be some who would not be interested in studies or sports or personal development, or anything else for that matter. You can’t do much about such students. All you can do is not to let those students disturb the interested students.
I had this concern from day one. And so, in my introductory class, I made clear that I am here to help those who want to help themselves. I said, “I am here to help you. I am not a teacher or trainer. Consider me your friend, your confidante. And this class is not about you or me. It’s about us. We’re a team and we shall achieve our goals together. Anyone who’s not interested is free to leave.”
“Once the class is in session, I’d assume only interested students are attending the class. If you’re not one of them, please take the liberty to leave the class because if you stayed, you shall be a disturbance to the whole class. I respect your right to leave.”
The disinterested students were concerned they might fall short in attendance. And they also may have to pay the fine if I complained to the head of the department. I assured they could mark the attendance and leave. I shall not make any complaint.
I gave them a code – “I need to go drink some water.” Disinterested students were supposed to approach me after I took the attendance and speak those magic words. The moment a student spoke those words, I’d knew he/she is not going to come back.
I never forced any student to attend the class. I knew interested students would benefit from what we were exploring. And I also knew disinterested students couldn’t be forced. I had accepted the fact that not every student wants to progress.
3. Listen with Patience, Teach with Authority
The first thing for a teacher is to realize that coaching is about students, not the teacher. You can help students by giving them opportunities to express themselves. Let them speak. Make them feel important. Listen to what they have to say. Pay attention to their problems. Empathize with how they feel about studies and about the world in general. Listen more so you can understand more. And when needed, speak with authority.
4. Begin the Class on Time
I used to wait till all the students gathered in the classroom after the lunch break. Many students used to be 10, 15, and even 20 minutes late.
One day a student suggested-“Sir, you should start the class on time. Waiting for latecomers means wasting the time of the students who came on time.” He was right. I realized my mistake, and that day onward I started classes on the scheduled time-even if only one student was present.
Nobody was allowed after the scheduled time. This made non-punctual students realize their mistake and they started reaching on time.
5. Treat Every Class and Every Student as Special
One particular day, my first class was quite troublesome. Students were making a lot of noise despite my best efforts. I got a little frustrated. The students in the next class asked why I looked annoyed and I gave them a hint about how bad my previous class had been.
Later, I realized I had breached the trust of my students by discussing them in front of another class. I resolved never to discuss issues of one class with another class or the issues of one student with another student.
Every class and every student is special. You, as a teacher, need to respect the privacy of each class as well as the privacy of each individual student.
Never discuss issues you may be having with a particular class or a particular student in front of another class or in front of another student. That’s unethical and not to mention, against the professional integrity of a teacher. Try to understand the problems and strive to offer help. That’s the best you can do as a teacher.
6. Teach the “Message”
The day I started delivering personal development classes was also the day I had resolved to read as much as I could and pass on the best of the information to my students.
I own a book titled “The Success Principles” by Jack Canfield. It’s a wonderful book that teaches success principles.
I used to carry the book with me. That way I was able to utilize my metro travel time. I learned a lot from that book and later passed on the most useful information to my students. The students then used to raise questions and I had to find solutions. That also helped me to clear my concepts. I went from being a problem seeker to a solution seeker within 15 days. That was a long-awaited transformation for me as a teacher.
7. Go that Extra Mile to Help Your Students
The conventional setup in most colleges is not good enough for effective learning. That’s why you need to take some extra steps to help students overcome certain challenges.
Ordinary teachers treat their work as a means to an end. They don’t take extra stress. Their attitude is like, “My job is to teach them X. That’s what I am paid for. So, I just do what’s expected of me. Nothing more, nothing less.”
I know you’re not one of those teachers. You are an inspiration to the fellow teachers. You want your students to grow, and for that, you’re willing to walk that extra mile.
The biggest challenge my students faced was unexpressed energy that used to leak itself in the form of noise they made in classrooms.
One day, the class was in session and the students were laughingly hysterically. They were also making noise because I had cracked a joke. Suddenly a female teacher (who was notorious for being one of the most strict teachers in the college) entered the classroom and almost ridiculed me, “Sir, what are you doing? These students are making so much noise that the entire floor is getting disturbed.”
Then she addressed the students, “What do you think of yourselves. If you don’t behave, I’ll complain to the principal and all of you will have to pay a hefty fine.”
“Sir, please make a list of all the students who are making noise and give it to me if they don’t behave.”
“I surely would, ma’am” I assured her.
I met the training and placement officer the next day to discuss the issue.
I requested for special permission so I may start an experiment. I suggested the students should be allowed to make a loud noise for the first 10 minutes-they should be free to laugh, scream or make any noise they wished. That way most of their unexpressed energy shall get released and they shall remain calm and centred for the next 40 minutes.
I got a big fat no in reply, stating it would disturb the adjoining classes. I found that ironic. I was suggesting letting the students having fun for the first 10 minutes so they can remain calm for the next 40 minutes. That would have been more productive, instead of them making noise for the whole 50 minutes.
I was denied permission. Apparently, the college authorities were more concerned about maintaining decorum by force. You’re not dealing with some kindergarten kids here. The students in B.Tech are young people – full of energy and vigour. You can’t suppress their energy by force. That’s idiotic.
The lesson here is that you must be willing to go that extra mile for your students. You may not succeed in many of your endeavours, but you’re most likely to succeed at some if you cared enough.
8. You Can Make Difference as a Teacher. Just Don’t Lose Heart
After about 15 days, I received a feedback from my employer company.
Apparently, some students had complained to the dean that I wasn’t good enough and they needed a replacement. Since I was the replacement of the previous teacher, the person sharing the feedback was concerned.
The company might have to lose the contract. Losing the contract would have meant a bad name for the company, and the company could’ve been blacklisted forever. I assured him I’d handle.
I knew who those students were. They were the backbenchers that never took interest in anything. They were there just to pass time. One student was so disinterested that I always found him listening to music on his mobile phone in the classroom. I asked him to leave but he said he wouldn’t disturb the students or me so I had allowed him to sit.
I had total 250 students in 5 different classes. I was leaving no stone unturned to help them grow. The news was disheartening, but it affirmed my decision to not force any student to attend the classes. Now I just had to make things clearer to some students.
The next day I explained again to that particular class that nobody is being forced to sit in the classroom, and disinterested students were free to leave. I assured I’d not complain.
Not every student would be interested in what you have to say. That does not mean you should stop speaking. Keep in mind there are students who would be deeply interested in learning new things and moving forward. Be careful not to deprive those students of the help you can offer.
There will always be some faultfinders in every class. Be ready to handle them, and above all, don’t lose heart.
9. Start a Blog
My students were concerned about staying in touch once the classes got over, and I also wanted a platform where I could share new things with them. So, I started this blog.
You too can help your students by starting a blog. A blog can help you stay connected with your past students. They can read what you have to say without you being physically present. It can be of big help for your students because they’d have useful advice ready for them whenever they need it.
Starting a blog will also help you as a teacher because you’d be required to clarify your thoughts and express yourself in a clear manner. It’s a win-win situation for both students and you.
There are a lot of ideas that can help you as a teacher to bring about positive changes in the classroom. And I’ve shared just some of them.
Why not brain-storm some more effective classroom strategies with your fellow like-minded teachers? Doing so can help you find some more positive teaching tips that can skyrocket your progress, and make your teaching journey more fulfilling and satisfying
You just need to be a little more loving and caring toward your students and the rest will fall into place on its own.
Nothing is more precious for a teacher than a past student hugging him with deep respect, whom he just ran into, at a place he wasn’t even expecting.
Take my word for it.