Teacher training through student body language
Attending college, graduate school and teacher-training programs are important ways to prepare new teachers in the art of teaching, but actually standing in front of a group of awaiting students is where the real training begins.
There is so much more to teaching than many people know. There is the constant hope that teachers feel that students are trying their best, that students are listening, and that things are sinking in.
Kids’ body language is very easy to read, especially when it comes to teachers observing these gestures. A teacher can easily gauge how well a lesson is going just by looking at a student’s face. If the students are engaged, happy, worried, or tired, it certainly shows. If a student is not paying attention, is upset, is confused, or feeling restless, that definitely shows too.
To me, teaching is similar to boot camp. We teachers aren’t literally going on obstacle courses or running uphill each day, but we sure are figuratively. A class lesson could go well, leaving a new or veteran teacher feeling elevated, on top of the world, or the lesson could go badly and have the opposite effect, leaving a teacher feeling defeated or out of breath.
We had a recent project in my classroom, in which the students wrote letters to President Obama and asked him various questions about his life and what it’s like to be in charge of America. Some students began happily writing away, asking President Obama about his job and his cool bodyguards. Other students seemed hesitant to write, and by witnessing their facial reaction to the assignment, I could tell they were worried about writing to someone so important.
After confirming my suspicion, I told these struggling students that they shouldn’t worry, and that perhaps President Obama would love their letters so much he would put them up on his wall in the White House. I told them that he has daughters in elementary school, and that he also likes to play fun sports, like basketball. Slowly, the students calmed down, and began writing, with calmer faces and more relaxed body language.
In this situation, and in many lessons before, I realized that the best kind of teacher training is to simply look at students’ reactions to assignments. I also learned that sometimes students just need some encouraging words.
I salute my fellow teachers out there who continue to work so hard for our students, for the ones who reach out to them every day.
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Erica Yurman is a teacher at Prestwood Elementary School.