6 Ways New Teachers can Engage their Young Audience
The shocking truth is, ain’t no kid out there is tightly holding onto their $100+ textbooks at night, eagerly waiting for their next 9am Tuesday lecture. As a professional who’s changing their career to teaching–even for a little while–this is a hard reality to face, and believe me, you’re going to face it.
Let’s be honest; college students are animals…they eat, sleep, grabble and sleep. Grabbing their attention is about as easy as grabbing your dog for bath time, and holding that attention for a 2-3 hour period? That’s a near impossible task. So how do you do it? The key is finding ways to engage your students.
Here some advice for first year teachers to get you heading in the right direction:
“What’s My Purpose?”
If some smart-ass rocked up to one of your lecturers and asked you, “Hey is this gonna be worth it? What’s the endgame?”. You slap them. Metaphorically. You should be able to tell them exactly what your lecture covers and why it’s important. You need to know the end goal.
It seems like a simple idea, but often teachers struggle by making things unnecessarily complicated when trying to teach students new and valuable ideas. As a general rule, you should be able to tell that smart-ass the key purpose and takeaways of your lecture in one sentence; any more than that and chances are you’re losing focus.
Becoming a university lecturer is stressful, so trying to fit the mold of “a teacher” is only going to make it tougher. Teaching isn’t an exact science, and neither is learning. The most effective teachers are those who stand out, those who have a brand and are remembered for it.
Make your content and lessons just as interesting and engaging as you are. Experiment with new technologies, new assessments and new forms of engagement. I know I sound like a motivational poster, but don’t be afraid to fail.
Learn from the Masters, Young Padawan
Look, you’re new to the game, it’s okay to look to the pros for some tips. Suss out who the best teachers are in and outside of your faculty or department and sit in some of their lectures. Chances are the best teachers are those who’ve been around long enough to test out what methods work and what don’t. Observe how they get to know students, appreciate how they use humour, or cringe out how they misuse it, see how they utilize technology and what strategies are most effective.
From these observations, you can adapt your lectures and test what works best for you, what techniques are most engaging and what jokes fall flat on the floor. Eventually, much like Obi Wan Kenobi, you will have the high ground.
Keep it P.A.R.
Effective teaching comes in many forms, but one of the keys to effective teaching is keeping it Practical, Applicable and Relatable. Every student will come to the inevitable point in their life where they’ll question the point of a lecture, or even an entire course (I know I have).
One of the most frustrating things for students is learning a new concept or approach but having no idea how it applies to the real world. Seeing the implementation or practice of ideas in realistic situations provides clarity and lets students know exactly why it’s important to understand the content.
Make it Interactive
This is probably one of the biggest and most important points. Every lecturer should be using interactive technology like live polling. Interactive activities are beneficial for three key reasons:
- Why it Benefits You—Interactive technology can allow you to collect valuable insight into what topics and subjects need to be focused more on and what don’t. This will make your lessons far more effective and efficient.
- Why it Benefits Them—Students can gain an indication of where they stand against their peers and this creates healthy competition as well as letting them know what areas they need to work on.
- Why it Benefits Everyone—There’s no question that lectures over 2-3 hours can get content heavy and boring. Interactive activities are a great way to break this up and keep both parties interested and invested.
What about the Shy Bunch?
Things become a little different when catering for 100+ students in a lecture hall versus 5 in a boardroom meeting. A valuable lesson to learn is that every student works differently. Some are open and vocal, whereas others are introverted and quiet. The key thing to remember is they’re all there to learn.
Ever been in a lecture or classroom when the teacher is explaining some convoluted concept and you’re sitting there thinking, what the hell is going on? Then at the end of the class they turn to you and ask, “do you have any questions?”
You have a million, but everyone else in the room doesn’t appear as clueless as you so you just sit there and shake your head, praying they don’t call your bluff and try testing your knowledge. This is where techniques like anonymous Q&As are super handy. They’ll enable you as a lecturer to answer all the questions that everyone’s thinking but no one will ask.
The key to successful teaching is keeping it interesting and engaging. But remember, whatever happens when you walk into that lecture hall, just embrace the fact that it’s not about you. As much as you might prepare, at the end of the day things will go wrong, there will be some shortcomings but believe it or not, you’re not perfect, no one is.
Just remember the important things…..like how to spell professor.
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I get to work closely with the wonderful customers using Zeetings and ensure that they love the product as much as I do! Additionally I wear many hats; such as seeking out new people to impress with Zeetings, working on Strategic Partnerships, Marketing, Social Media and finding the best coffee spots around Sydney ???? I hail from San Diego, California and in a previous lifetime, I was a gymnast… don’t be surprised if you catch me walking around on my hands.