If what we are teaching is not meaningful for our students, we are wasting our time and theirs. I know I say this all the time but it is so very true. Why do we as educators waste our time talking at our students about things without giving them an opportunity to make connections? How can we expect them to learn about something that has no meaning for them? Imagine yourself being forced to sit through a class or lecture about something that is of no interest to you whatsoever. We've all been there...we've sat through a professional development class that we knew would not work in our classroom or had nothing to do with our subject area. And...it's...torture! It's not fun because it's not meaningful. We can't connect to what is being shared because we do not see a practical use or reason to learn what we are being taught.
So, today I wanted to share some ways that I hope to make learning meaningful in my classroom this year.
1) Know your students well. Know your students well enough to know what they are interested in and how they are motivated. Understand that it will not work to see them as a class but instead you must see them as individuals. It's difficult to make learning meaningful if you cannot find a way to connect personally with your students. They need to trust you enough to know that you would not waste their time sharing something that is not important or will be important at some point in their lives.
2) Trust yourself. Trust yourself as an educator to teach in a way that you know is best for your students. Don't be afraid to try new things. Give yourself permission to fail and make mistakes as you look for new ways to engage your students and make learning meaningful for them. Look for opportunities to step outside your comfort zone and do what you know is best for your classroom.
3) Be okay with a little chaos. Meaningful learning is messy. It's not always easy and does not involve students sitting in rows doing the same worksheet. Instead, it's chaotic and sometimes a little crazy. Kids are okay with this and can learn best when we allow them to explore, interact, and create. While I understand there are times when a classroom should be quiet and students need to be individually focused, I also believe that more often than not, they should be moving around and being given the opportunity to find out what meaningful learning is for themselves.
4) Get connected. Being a connected educator has helped me give my students some amazing experiences this year. Genius Hour and Innovations has had a huge impact on my students and has given us a new perspective on what is meaningful and what is not. Knowing that I have access to some of the world's most amazing educators instantly is still mind-boggling to me. Being connected has opened doors and given me the opportunity to explore what is meaningful for me and in turn, I am able to offer meaningful experiences to my students.
5) Use technology. Like it or not, technology is meaningful for our students. They get it...it's their world. I'm not saying that technology will always make the lesson more meaningful because there are so many ways to add meaning without using any technology. However, when used appropriately technology has a way of taking a learning experience to new level. Students are learning on their terms using their devices. If it will make the learning more meaningful or provide an opportunity for connections to be made, use technology in your classroom. Don't be afraid to learn from your students. Ask questions, share concerns, and find ways to implement technology in your classroom as often as possible.
Make it a priority to ask yourself as you plan every lesson this year if it is going to meaningful or a waste of time. And then be honest with yourself. Look for ways to give your students opportunities to connect with the learning. As I said earlier, meaningful learning is messy. I'm still learning from my students what this looks like in our classroom and will continue to learn as long as I am an educator. If you are setting goals for 2015, please make one of those goals to provide meaningful learning experiences for your students. They deserve it!