All teachers need to understand…

As much as we might like to disagree, unmotivated students are our responsibility. We cannot give up on any of them until we’ve done everything possible to intrigue their brains. Some of them come to us already defeated, having given up hope, believing they are less than smart. We know these kids the moment they walk through the door and watch where they choose to sit. If we give up on them, we put another nail in their coffin, impart another confirmation of their inadequacy, and add another step in their trip towards the street. Rather than appear stupid, they misbehave.

We need to begin every beginning—every lesson, every unit, every year—with a commitment to invite students to learn. We not only need to make these invitations intriguing, but also we need to believe in the invitation and its potential. We need, too, to recognize the invitation as our most powerful tool. Threats and coercion have no effect on any student who is convinced that learning in school has no value.

Keating’s invitation in Dead Poets Society [see previous bloodspot] does not focus on learning content (although he employs Robert Herrick’s “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time” as his text) but on the deeper lessons of life he wants his students to pursue in his literature class; he concludes by pointing to old photos of former students and says, “You, too, will soon be pushing up daisies. Carpe Diem, boys. Seize the day!”18 His students certainly want to return to class the next day, and the next and the next, as Keating’s invitation lets them know of his commitment to them and to what they will learn…

Teachers love John Keating’s foray into the trophy room, but few take time to emulate him. Invitations to learn, after all, take time and require creative juices. Given the pressures to cover material as fast as possible, such invitations cut into teaching time, and losing time creates anxiety…

“Inviting students to learn” is the sub title of Teaching from the Middle of the Room. Invitations are the key to successful teaching. Find out more from the book by purchasing it from Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Teaching-Middle-Room-Frank-Thoms/dp/0615358918

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