Carolism #3: Make them curious … and they will come
Kevin Costner built a baseball field and dead baseball players came. Although I can’t guarantee the same results of resurrecting the dead, I can testify to having students show up early for class, eager to learn. Why? Because I had built my class to be somewhere students wanted to be. If you make them curious, they will come.
I recently blogged about students being late for class—and this is a nation-wide, never-ending problem that I think every single educator has dealt with. In that post, I talked about the importance of content at the beginning and end of each class. I want to delve into that a bit deeper and give you some concrete takeaways.
How to make your students curious
■ Make it personal. You could tease tomorrow’s class with what chapters you’re covering or what topics you’ll be discussing, but you have to show the value to them. “Next Friday there will be a test and tomorrow morning we’ll be covering the content that the essay questions will cover.” Whoa, now they have a reason to be there—they don’t want to fail. Do your classes always cover content that could be on a test? Of course, but you have to spell it out. Make it personal. “Tuesday’s guest speaker told me her company is looking for two summer interns. Wouldn’t it be great to hand her a resume in person?” Teasing your content is one thing—making it about your students is another.
■ Win the crowd. “I wasn’t the best because I killed quickly. I was the best because the crowd loved me. Win the crowd, win your freedom.” This is one of my favorite lines from Gladiator and, believe it or not, perfectly describes a teacher (without that whole killing part). You want to win a student? Win the class. Your lesson plans need to incorporate something that students will talk about outside of the classroom—and those who weren’t there will feel like they missed out. Maybe you swap a test with a game of Jeopardy. Maybe you host a talk show where your guests are your students pretending to be a professional in the career they’re looking to go into. Just do something that will get them excited and will get them taking pictures, recording video and sharing it on social media. Those who missed class will quickly be sorry they did.
■ Give them the unexpected. It’s not a bad thing to be known as the teacher who gives pop quizzes. I know I made sure I was in every class when I had teachers that did that. Switch up the classroom layout. Have a student teach for an hour. Show them funny YouTube videos that align with your class material. Give them silly prizes for getting an answer to a question right. If you do the same thing every class then you’re giving your students a reason to not be there. Keep your students wondering what you’ll be doing tomorrow and suddenly they’ll find a reason to skip the snooze button and just hop out of bed.
Let me remind you—it’s the curiosity that will keep them wanting to come. You can give punishments for late-comers or no-shows, but when people are forced to be somewhere they don’t want to be, that’s just as miserable. Get your students excited about your classroom and start giving them a reason to show up. They will come … it’s just up to you to intrigue them. Don’t ever underestimate the power of an educator!