California Educator

June/July 2019

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Page 32 of 63

Engage students to help them reach their full potential J O N P E A R S O N Los Angeles-based learning skills consultant, author, educator H E R E ' S A F O O L P R O O F way to motivate anyone. I have students take a piece of paper and make three columns. At the top of the first column, they write "FUN" and list everything they do for fun (just key words). In the next column, they write "EXPERT" and list everything they are good at or wish to be good at. At the top of the third column, they write "HEROES/SHEROES" and list anyone (living, deceased, fictional, cartoon, pets) they admire. I tell students to go beyond rock stars, sports figures and entertainers. Everyone is motivated by three things: pleasure, mastery and values. This is an easy way to discover what those things are specifically. Have students add to their lists throughout the year and keep a copy of the lists in your desk (especially for the students with whom you have the most chal- lenges). If a student has a hard time making any of the lists, it just shows areas that need attention. At the heart of "who you are" is what lights you up. Knowing that is an essential first step, because people don't really listen with their ears — they listen, ulti- mately, with their passions. Drawing is the easiest way to get, keep and direct attention. I was a substitute teacher in the Los Angeles juve- nile hall system for two years. I got students to look up at me by drawing. Coercion never works. Curi- osity always does. You might lose five minutes by drawing a picture, but if you draw a picture and talk from it, you can double the amount of work you get done over the next block of time. Engaged students get more done, faster. Use mindfulness to make the classroom climate safer T E R E S A T O L B E RT 14-year high school English teacher, mindfulness coach; San Juan Teachers Association I M E D I T A T E W I T H students. I explain the benefits and show them the way to prepare for medita- tion — the importance of long inhalations and exhalations, a strong, straight spine and engaged core, feet flat on the floor, and what to do with their hands and their gaze. I explain that it's optional, but anybody who wants to try it should not be disturbed, stared at or mocked. Students who opt out are asked to put their heads down on their desks, read a book or do something quiet. Students ask for meditation and understand its benefits when they are anxious or stressed about upcoming tests, deadlines, or just life. All of this can be modified for younger students and has been done with great effects for years by many experienced practitioners. I ensure my room is safe emotion- ally by setting norms early in the school year and through team-build- ing and rituals. I also make it safe for students to share with me privately through journaling and what I call "anxiety busters." Students can share with the class in a supportive envi- ronment where positively reinforcing each other is constantly recognized. I affirm stu- dents and "see" them as often as possible. This is the tricky part, especially with large class sizes. If students feel relaxed, assured, affirmed and seen, they are more willing to take cognitive risks and use their voices in discussions. My classroom is not teacher-driven. I give them the tools and the safety to be the directors of their own learning. We have a lot of voice-building exercises such as MicroLab, literature circles and Four Corners, where every voice is heard and everybody has air time. " At the heart of 'who you are' is what lights you up." " If students feel relaxed, assured, affirmed and seen, they are more willing to take cognitive risks and use their voices." 31 J U N E / J U L Y 2 019

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