More Is Caught Than Taught


coffee and writing instrumentsWe look forward to fresh-faced students eager to learn showing up at our classroom door in a few weeks. Hopeful faces and inquisitive minds thrill a teacher’s heart that, hopefully, this year children will easily absorb puzzling fraction problems and endless phonics rules, making teaching pleasant.

Many of us know from experience that fresh vigor soon slumps as we establish routines and the work becomes harder. How can we keep that inquisitive mind hungry? How can we make the hard work stimulating? Perhaps more is in the teacher’s power to shape that attitude than appears at first glance.

Attitude is contagious. If we want our students to have an inquisitive attitude that lasts more than three weeks, they will need to catch it from us. We need to demonstrate an interest in discovery, a willingness to learn, and practice sharing new things we’ve learned. Whether or not they understand, it is important that they know we ourselves are regularly doing what we ask them to do.

Too many elementary teachers shudder at the thought of algebra. Too few upper grade teachers understand the rules of phonetics. Learn something new this school year! Rejuvenate during the weekends with a painting course. Learn a new language. Use your driving time to and from school to absorb an audiobook or podcast series.

Besides demonstrating an eagerness to learn, intentional learning can help us identify with our students. Recently I took an advanced chemistry course at the local community college. Even though I learned quite a bit, I didn’t devote enough time to my studies. When it came to test time, I hadn’t mastered all the formulas and performed poorly on the test. Even though I whined to my wife about how hard the content was, I knew the real problem was that I was working on chemistry only during evenings and spare time and not spending enough time solving practice problems and memorizing formulas. I had too much going on and didn’t have time to study like I knew I needed to. Now when my students complain about not having enough time to study to get the grades I expect, I know what it’s like! Sometimes it’s legitimate; sometimes priorities need to be readjusted.

This year, model the behavior you want your students to have. Be intentional about learning something new. Share what you are learning with your students. Even though it may be far beyond what they can comprehend, they will know you are learning, and that you find learning stimulating. That attitude will spread throughout your classroom. Remember, more is caught than taught.

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