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How do we inspire our students?

Discussion in 'Secondary' started by streetno9, Nov 24, 2019.

  1. streetno9

    streetno9 New commenter

    What do people do out there to inspire their students? I feel that, whilst there will always be those students who will have no issue at all in finding the ability to self-motivate, and that there will always be those who will resist no matter what, there are an increasingly larger number of students who, when it matters most, struggle to realise their potential. These students are the ones who need someone else to believe in them before they can do whatever it is they need to do themselves.
    It is my belief that these are the ones who need to be inspired by us, the teachers, so that they can find that inner belief when they are in and around the pressure-cooker environment of the GCSE exams (and mock exams come to that).
    So, I ask again, what do you guys out there do to inspire your students?
    This is my current list of "things to do". Please, let me know what you think about them and tell me if I've missed a trick (this is a work in progress by the way, so keep it coming!):

    Communication with home when it goes right, not just when it goes wrong (phone call and/or email)
    Reward lessons
    Targeted lesson content
    Increased focus on developing a positive teacher-student relationship
    Increase level and variety of challenge in lessons
    Dodros likes this.
  2. minnie me

    minnie me Star commenter

    Relevant curriculum ?
  3. streetno9

    streetno9 New commenter

    KS3 and KS4 focused. I'm an English teacher, but I'd like to hear from any and all across the educational spectrum to be honest.
  4. Dodros

    Dodros Star commenter

    I'm having issues with the verb "inspire" here. This word makes me think about what my dear departed mother used to say about people in authority during wartime, who used to utter wise saws such as: "The difficult we can do today, the impossible takes a little longer..." And as Brecht once said, "Unhappy is the land in need of heroes."

    What you have already listed sounds more like external motivators than sources of real inspiration. As a former secondary-school MFL and SEN teacher, I recall a questionnaire being circulated once among students with learning difficulties to find out what they valued most from a teacher. The consensus was the ability to explain subject matter in terms they could understand. I would add that a degree of consistency of purpose, method and content when delivering each of the core and foundation subjects of the National Curriculum is bound to help when meeting the needs of vulnerable students with limited cognitive ability and low self-esteem.
    sbkrobson and streetno9 like this.
  5. streetno9

    streetno9 New commenter

    A fair point, and I buy into an element of Brecht's philosophy surrounding letting people struggle. But, I'm not sure the idea of letting children struggle for the entirety of their educational lives makes them indispensable (to paraphrase our boy Bertold here). Sometimes, there will be those who need someone else to do the believing for them; or those who need someone to inspire that sense of self-belief. Not sure all children have the emotional maturity to recognise that their struggles will help them in the long run, and I guess it's become part of our job to help with that too. Thoughts?
  6. tb9605

    tb9605 Established commenter

    As a KS3-KS5 English teacher, I think a lot comes from you and your attitude - passion and enthusiasm can be contagious.

    However, I also think that making it "real" helps, so trips, bringing in professionals, getting students' work published externally, sending letters to politicians (who are good at replying, if nothing else!), putting on performances (not just of plays, but poems and speeches too), debate clubs, etc can all inspire.

    With tricky bottom sets (I've had my share) I've found that goal-setting really works: Ian Gilbert's Essential Motivation in the Classroom is really good on the why and how.

    Communication home is great. Reward lessons.... nah, I've never found them worthwhile.
    streetno9 likes this.
  7. minnie me

    minnie me Star commenter

    No - I meant ‘fit for purpose’ curriculum as in WIIFM ?
  8. streetno9

    streetno9 New commenter

    I'm inclined to agree on the Rewards lesson. Truth be told, I've put it there in recognition of the fact that I know there are still lessons out there which are "film lessons". Not my jam. Much prefer a lesson where we play Dungeons and Dragons as a way of inspiring creativity. Cheers for the politician idea - reckon I shall be using that one...
  9. Dodros

    Dodros Star commenter

    No, my Brecht reference (from "Galileo") was designed to distinguish the need for charismatic, "beyond the call of duty" type "inspiration" in times of crisis (e.g. wartime) from the need for constant motivation and support in more routine circumstances.

    I certainly do not advocate letting students struggle, especially those who presented special educational needs in my classes, hence my advocacy of taking time to explain difficult concepts, with patience and simple language and always without condescension. Challenge belongs in the process of encouraging improvement too, but standing smugly by while students struggle without targeted support strikes me as a recipe for humiliation, not self-improvement. Some teachers at the boys' grammar school where I completed my secondary education during the early 1960s employed this tactic and I promised myself that I would never inflict the same experience on my own students when I entered the teaching profession inthe early 1970s.
    streetno9 likes this.
  10. VeronicAmb

    VeronicAmb Occasional commenter

    I made a running joke with my GCSE classes - "don't end up like me if you want to be successful".
    "But Miss, you're great and you own the English dept."
    "Does the constant knocking on my door, my frantic frolicking to different classes and blatant muttering of useless emails tell you I own this department. I don't own it, it owns me!"
    "Don't end up like us teachers - don't stay in school. It will ruin you."

    Of course I wasn't serious. It was always playful and I always convinced them someone from SMT purposely always had someone on call to come call for me and disturb my classes for the ***** and giggles.

    But to answer your question, I often found I motivated my students by being relatable. For example, I always told my naughty kids I was just like them - always getting in trouble, being suspended from both primary and secondary schools. I was the problem child. And I turned my life around. They appreciated that.

    I told my more academic students my drive and thirst for knowledge was why I did my UG, PG and went onto teaching. Learning is life and life is learning.

    And for my A-level students. I simply always downplayed uni and perhaps inappropriately told them about my university days.

    I know some of you may say this is not good for whatever reason. But it worked for me and my students and the school I was in. Yes we are teachers, but I think it's important and valuable to teach my students that we are more than what our jobs and titles say we are. We are human, we have a life outside of school and a life before teaching. I think being relatable is so important for students. Especially ones who do not have a role model or look up to the likes of Kim Kardashian.

    Yes, I was an idealistic teacher and couldn't be more proud!
    tb9605 and streetno9 like this.
  11. tb9605

    tb9605 Established commenter

    Surely that's the best bit about KS5 teaching? One-upping the students when they come in with tales of their weekend exploits... ;-)
    streetno9 likes this.
  12. streetno9

    streetno9 New commenter

    Kudos to you. This sounds a lot like what I try to do myself. Thanks for confirming what feels so right.
  13. karen_justice

    karen_justice New commenter

  14. karen_justice

    karen_justice New commenter

    I struggle with these same issues and although it seems to me that I have inspired my students in the moment, they frequently don't follow through or push ahead. Furthering my frustration is that the parent contact information is often invalid. The phone number is disconnected or the email bounces back. I have taken to giving little to no homework or preps, hoping that if we do everything in class where the students can get help from me they will keep up. The jury is still out on that. I think we have a generational issue here.
    streetno9 likes this.

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