One of the best strategies I have learned came from my first mentor, famed teacher Rafe Esquith. He said to find ways to bring your own interests and passions into the classroom and somehow connect them to the curriculum. For example, if you love cooking, find a way to cook with your students.
This simple approach has several benefits: first, you enjoy teaching more, as you are teaching topics you love and find fascinating, not just what you are mandated to teach. Second, your lessons tend to become more engaging and creative. Learning math skills using a worksheet is one thing, but studying fractions through baking cookies, for instance, if another.
While I now teach college students, I still work every semester to bring my interests and passions into the classroom, whether its meditation, bonsai gardening, poetry, yoga, painting, or music. By bringing your interests into the curriculum, you are essentially teaching who you are.
Teach the standards and curriculum required by your district and state but don’t lose yourself in the process. Never sell your teaching soul.
While there is no one way to incorporate your interests into the classroom, perhaps sharing some examples from my own teaching may help.
- I can’t play music to save my life, but I love all kinds of music. One way I infuse music is to play upbeat music when students enter the classroom. I also sometimes put on “working music” when students are engaged in activities, which usually consists of instrumental songs.
- I am a published poet and have used poetry in my research. One activity requires students to create haikus, or Japanese poems that follow a 5-7-5 syllable structure, using course content. For example, they might read a passage from the course text then create one haiku and share it with the class.
- Meditation and yoga. I invite (not force) students to join a brief meditation at the start of each class. This helps settle the class and allows students to focus and clear the mind for the learning ahead. I also infuse quick, chair yoga exercises as brain breaks.
- Bonsai and gardening. I collect bonsai plants so one activity is I have students take content and cut it out on strips of paper and arrange the strips onto bonsais of various shapes and sizes. This 3-D framework prompts them to examine the same content from multiple points of view. They share with the class what patterns they notice in the content.
Of course, these are just examples. Experiment with ways to infuse your own passions into the curriculum. Take one passion at a time and design a learning activity around it.
Think how it might enhance the current curriculum.
Bring more of yourself into the classroom.