Coleen Wilcox, artist and educator, once said,
Teaching is the greatest act of optimism.
But what kind of teaching?
I believe that fun and interesting teaching (FIT) can invoke optimism.
What makes up FIT then? The abilities of projecting voice, knowing about basic theater arts, skill of “improvising” and implementing icebreakers and energizers can help it.
I am proud that I had educators who made their teaching fun and interesting. Some of my fondest memories as a learner:
When I was a toddler, my mother would always bring me to her school where she taught science for Grade six pupils. I enjoyed watching her not because science concepts were that entertaining to me but because there was never a dull moment in her class. I took pleasure watching her pupils clap, stomp, jump, chant and have games and other fun activities.
When I entered kindergarten at an elementary school near the Poblacion, the joy I had with my mom’s classes persisted. My kindergarten teacher, Teacher Merlie, used her vocal prowess in reading us stories. Characters came alive with her voice. She taught me to powerfully use my voice, control my breathing, and maintain proper posture in the poem “Si Daga at si Palaka” which I can still recite now.
In grade six, Teacher Norma taught us old songs like “Red River Valley” and “Home on the Range”. Before and after class periods, she would ask us to sing these songs emphatically. Singing gave me and my classmates a sense of belonging, a connection through music’s universal appeal.
In high school, I lavishly experienced progressive classrooms. Our high school teachers in Maria Aurora were given enough elbow room to practice flexibility in teaching. They even underwent basic theater arts workshops to improve their craft in teaching.
When I entered college, I chose my professors based on feedback about their teaching styles. I sought professors who were “different” in their teaching approach.
As a lifelong learner, I admire teachers who emphasize fun in learning. More so, those who can inject optimism, are not afraid to be ridiculous or look silly to retain or bring back students’ attention.
Now, as a teacher myself, I believe that there are teaching styles that can improve learning and nourish creativity in students.
Several researches back-up this belief in teaching: In 1995, Walter Vispoel and James Austin made a study on the reasons for school failures. They found out that lack of fun and interest was the primary reason.
In 2006, Guthrie, Hidi, and Renninger explained that catching and holding interest begins with the intensity of attention by the learners to one of the most important factor in learning: the teacher.
James O’Rourke (2008) said that people listen to a teacher or a presenter for this reason: how the topic is told. He said that more often than not, people want entertainment. They want to feel amused, captivated, excited, inspired, thrilled, and more (2008).
To my mind, every teacher is faced with an obligation to be FIT (Fun, Interesting Teacher). Times spent with my FIT teachers many years back remain vivid memories of student days.
To be FIT, just like the teacher that as O’Rourke described, here are some suggestions:
1. Harness your voice
The primary medium of a teacher is his voice. Before you dive into your classroom, spend a few minutes of relaxation and vocal exercises. It will help you develop good breathing and speaking habits.
More so, paying attention to your voice (especially pitch and volume) will develop your ear. You should remind yourself to avoid speaking in monotone. You can try vocal exercises following this pattern: low-high-low pitch, high-low-high pitch, soft-loud, or loud-soft. Yes, a FIT teacher knows how to change the emphasis of his voice by changing his pitch, volume, and rate.
2. Know some basic theater arts principles
Teaching is acting. Boost your acting skills by understanding the qualities of a good performance.
Know the elements of arts and understand your space. Getting to know the parts of a stage can help you avoid “blocking” and “backing” that often disrupt students’ attention. Remember that when you teach, you should target a “performance level”. A FIT teacher knows how to throw himself in and out of the spotlight!
3. Master impactful icebreakers
Icebreakers and energizers engage your students with your lecture, activities, discussions, and peer collaboration. You can icebreakers before, during, and after a lesson. Take advantage of class breaks to sustain the energy level and stretch the attention span of your students.
My favorite icebreakers are those that develop through personal experiences. Action songs are never out of style. A FIT teacher should have meaningful icebreakers that are readily available to implement.
4. Practice your “improvisational” skills
Improvisation or “improv” is a form of theater where the dialogue of a game or story is made up spontaneously. When you do an “improv”, you should first identify your students’ background, hobbies, and extra-curricular activities. Always remember to do it with humor by injecting your personal experiences. A FIT teacher is an improviser To deliver an effective improv, you need to practice. Remember that every time you practice, you build your skill and confidence. Your performance in one class will serve as a practice for the next.
The teacher is the single most important factor for student progress.
To retain student interest and enhance learning, a teacher should be flexible. However what worked in one class may not necessarily be effective in another class. Harness your natural flair in talking, moving, feeling, and thinking and be a great teacher.
The skill of delivering FIT is perfected with practice and the belief that in every classroom.. FIT is king!
Delivering fun-interesting-teaching cannot be taught to a new teacher. However with the help of a coach or a mentor, you can develop a style that’s truly your own and would work in your specific class