Teaching can be hard, especially when you’re trying to make a difference in the classroom. But there are specific tips for teachers that can help you achieve your goal irrespective of the outer circumstances. In this article, I am sharing simple tips for teachers to motivate students and make teaching exciting and productive. The tips you’re about to read can help you stand out from the crowd of ‘regular’ teachers. Also, these teaching ideas can assist you to earn the respect of your students.
Let’s be honest.
Not all teachers want to make a difference.
Teaching is just a job for them. And there’s nothing wrong with it.
Well, I know you’re not one of them because you don’t see teaching as a job.
For you, it’s a powerful tool to make a difference in your students’ lives.
Making a Difference as a Teacher is Hard
It can be hard as hell at times (especially if you’re a beginning teacher), but believe me; there’s nothing to worry.
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 me better.
This blog, avdheshtondak.com is the result of a loving connection with my students at Subharti University, Meerut where I conducted personality development training.
My Teaching Story
It was March 2010. One of my cousins had plans to sell media packages to colleges in North India. And since I had been working in media as a voice actor, he thought we could work together.
So, he invited me to discuss things over dinner one evening.
The idea was to work something out that could benefit both of us monetarily. After the discussion, he asked if I knew any personality development trainer. He had connections with a software training company in Noida, Uttar Pradesh, and they were looking for a trainer to deliver personality development classes at Subharti University, Meerut.
At that time I was recording some educational stuff with a female English trainer and her name popped into my head. But I wasn’t sure if she would be interested in the assignment. I assured my cousin I’d talk to her.
And boy, can I forget that night? I was tossing and turning in my 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 who rarely participated in any sport or speaking related activities.
Stand in Front of People? No, That’s Not My Cup of Tea
But I was into meditation for quite some years, and I trusted my intuition, so I decided to say yes.
My cousin passed me on the mobile number of the concerned person. I talked with the guy, and we finalised the details. He requested me to start the classes from the very next day, but I wasn’t prepared and needed at least a day. (I was kind of curious – why they needed a teacher at such short notice? 😕 )
He gave me the mobile number of the teacher I was replacing, and I phoned her up to get some insights about the students. I was the first person to inform her that I was taking her place. She was shocked to know that.
I asked about her experience as a teacher with students at Subharti University, and this is what she said.
“Oh! You can’t handle those students. They are impossible. They don’t listen to you. I don’t know how you would manage.” I thanked for her ‘encouraging’ words and disconnected.
Later I came to know that her teaching style was kind of ‘different.’ Most of the times she used to talk to the students in English. Now, you see, Subharti University is in Western Uttar Pradesh.
It has a lot of students from rural backgrounds, and English is not even their 3rd language. So, there was a communication gap between the teacher and the students.
I also belong to Western UP, and I could understand the situation of the students. If there’s something that scares us the most is not a ghost or Jinn – it’s English. You see, Meerut is predominantly a rural area. English is alien over there, and that’s normal.
I also heard the students had approached the dean and offered two options – a) Refund the fee the students had paid for personality development classes, or b) Arrange a new teacher.
My First Classroom Session
March 10, 2010: The day I delivered my first personality development class.
On the 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 strategy?” I replied, “Ma’am, preparing the key in advance without having a look at the lock is nothing but stupidity. I am ready, but not in the 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 go, pass the time talking some random stuff and come back. I feel it’d be worthless spending too much energy on these students.”
I replied, “Ma’am, had passing time been my motto, I could’ve done that in Delhi only. Why cover almost 150 kilometres a day to pass the time?”
“There are many beautiful parks in my vicinity. I could’ve taken my girlfriend there to pass the 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 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.”
My first ‘class’ was in computer science branch, B.Tech 2nd year. One male staff member of the company accompanied me to the classroom, and he wanted to stay while I delivered the talk. I requested him to leave as his presence was making me uncomfortable. He honoured my request.
So there I was, standing in front of 55 students. The classroom was anything but quiet. I was wondering if those students had ever heard the phrase “pin drop silence.”
My Students Were Not Paying Attention
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 and asked to pay attention, but the pupils 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, and things started to roll.
That’s how my personal development coaching journey started.
The Best Tip for Teachers: Focus on the Students
I had a small book on the subject of coaching. The book shone a light on a valuable insight. It said coaching is about the students and not about the teacher, so one must focus on the students and not himself.
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. My first class used to be at 09:00 am.
An interesting thing:
The college addressed classes as ‘lectures.’ I found that laughable. I mean, who wants a lecture? At least I don’t, and that’s why I never treated 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
One of the most useful tips for teachers is: Use laughter as an 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.
I used to begin the classroom session with a joke, a witty one-liner, or some poetry – the idea was to make the students feel comfortable.
Laughter is an excellent way to comfort and open up your students, thereby preparing them for learning.
2. Not Every Student Wants to Progress. And That’s Alright
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.
Majority of the students want to focus on studies. But there are others who are not interested in studies or sports or personal development or anything else for that matter. You can’t do much about it. All you can do is not to let such students disturb the interested ones.
I had this concern from day one. And so, in my introductory class, I made classroom rules clear to every student.
I explained that I was there to help those interested in helping themselves.
I said, “I am not a teacher or trainer, instead, 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 would disturb others. I respect your right to leave.”
The disinterested students were worried about the attendance. They feared that they might have to pay a hefty fine if I complained to the head of the department.
I assured they could mark the attendance and leave and I shall not make any complaint.
You see, I had formulated a secret code: “I need to go drink some water.” I expected disinterested students to approach me after I took the attendance. The moment a student spoke the code, I’d knew he/she is not going to come back.
I never forced any student to attend the class because I knew interested students would benefit from what we were exploring. And I also knew I needed to avoid pushing the disinterested students. I had accepted the fact that not every student wants to progress.
3. Listen with Patience, Teach with Authority
Teaching can help you make a difference if you realise that it’s about students, not the teacher.
You can help your students by giving them opportunities to express themselves.
Let them speak so they could feel important.
Listen to what they have to say and pay attention to their problems.
Empathise with how they think about studies and the world in general.
Listen more so you can understand more. And when needed, speak with authority.
4. Begin Class on Time
I used to wait until 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 made me realise my mistake, and that day onward I started classes on the scheduled time-even if only one student were present.
No student was allowed to enter the classroom after the scheduled time. That approach made non-punctual students realise 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 batch asked why I looked upset and I gave them a hint about how bad my previous class had been.
Later, I realised I had breached the trust of my students by discussing them in front of another class. I resolved never to address issues of one classroom with another or the problems of one student with another student.
Every class and every student is unique. You, as a teacher, need to respect the privacy of each classroom as well as the privacy of each student.
Never discuss issues you may be having with a particular class or a specific student in front of other students. 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 Your Students the “Message”
As soon as I started delivering personality development sessions, I decided to read as much as I could. That way I could pass on the best of the information to my students.
I own a book titled “The Success Principles” by Jack Canfield that teaches success principles.
I learned a lot of useful things from that book during my metro travel time and later passed on the information to my students.
The students used to raise questions, and I had to find solutions which helped me as a teacher – I went from being a problem seeker to a solution seeker within 15 days. It was a long-awaited transformation for me as an educator and also as an individual.
7. Be the Teacher Who Goes that Extra Mile to Help the Students
The conventional setup in most colleges is not good enough for active learning. That’s why you need to take some extra steps to help students overcome specific 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. So, I will do that. Nothing more, nothing less.”
I know you’re not one of those teachers. Because you always keep wondering, “How can I make a difference as a teacher?” 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 most significant challenge for my students was the unexpressed energy. That was the reason they were so noisy during the class.
One day, the class was in session, and the students were laughing 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 fine.”
“Sir, you need to work on behaviour management in the classroom. Please make a list of the students who were making noise and give it to me if they don’t behave.”
“I surely would, ma’am” I assured her.
The next day I met the training and placement officer to discuss the issue.
I Requested to Conduct an Experiment
My suggestion was that 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.
And what did I get?
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 did not get the permission. The college authorities were more concerned about maintaining decorum by force.
I mean, are you serious?
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 them. 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 feedback from my employer company.
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 could have lost the contract which would have meant earning a bad name. And also, the college could have blacklisted them.
I assured him I’d handle the situation.
I knew who those students were. They were the backbenchers that never took an interest in anything. They were there to pass the time. One student always had his earphones on because he wasn’t at all interested. I asked him to leave, but he said he wouldn’t disturb the students or me, so I allowed him to sit.
There was a total of 250 students in 5 different classes, and I was leaving no stone unturned to help them grow.
The news was disheartening, but it affirmed my decision not to force any student to attend the classes. Now I just had to make things clearer for some students.
The next day I explained again to that particular class that I wasn’t forcing anyone to sit in the classroom and disinterested students were free to leave.
Be careful to help interested students as much as you can.
Also, 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 significant help to your students because they’d have useful advice ready for them whenever they need it.
A blog forces you to express your ideas with clarity, which in turn helps you sharpen your teaching skills. It’s a win-win situation for both the 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
As a teacher, you need to be a little more loving and caring to 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 profound respect – whom he just ran into – at a place neither of them was expecting.
That will make you realise that your efforts to make a difference as a teacher in your students’ lives didn’t go in vain.
Take my word for it.