Why Enthusiasm Is Important In Teaching.
I loved and still do love doing my art/craft / DIY group with school-aged girls every fortnight. I loved it so much I put the activities we have been doing over the last 5 years or so in Tessa’s Books Of Elegance. This enthusiasm for the beautiful activities we do encourages me to keep on writing books for the series. During these lessons and over my 30-year teaching career I know enthusiasm truly is catching and have learnt why enthusiasm is important in teaching.
I don’t have to pretend to be enthused about teaching, my enthusiasm, zeal and passion are real! I really believe if you are a teacher and not enthusiastic about what you’re teaching you should not do it – it’s really not fair to yourself or particularly the students. I remember the teachers I had, both unenthusiastic and enthusiastic. It’s glaringly obvious which teachers wanted to be somewhere else, were not really interested and only there for the money/ to have a job. The other types of teachers were the ones who wanted to inspire their students to learn because they loved their job and wanted to be there. Through the teachers who inspired me, I developed a love of learning, a wanting to know more, an inquisitive mind and a zealousness to be creative.
Generally teacher enthusiasm is recognised as one of the most essential qualities and characteristics of an effective teacher. In addition, they add in a bit of excitement, anticipation and engage students to participate and a desire to explore which in turn leads to improvements in student performance and behaviour.
I was given several small classes to teach with students who did not want to learn, as they were not intrinsically motivated to learn and needed an enthusiastic teaching style. The students that are intrinsically motivated learn for success and enjoyment. So with this particular group of students, I used extrinsic motivations like reward charts for behaviour and learning, offering small rewards to could earn if they did well. I also applied the learning to outside the classroom combining life skills and movement/sport. The results were amazing. After 6 months they all improved remarkably and started to like learning, never missing a class with me. It makes sense – when students know their teacher is enthusiastic about teaching, energetic, cares, is interested and mindfully present in the classroom they are more likely to be interested and engaged in learning. Teachers have the power to cause this infectious enthusiasm to transfer to their students.
There are many ways to convey your enthusiasm when teaching:
Your tone of voice, body language and eye contact can make such a difference when teaching. No one wants to listen to a monotone voice go on and on from a teacher slumped in a chair all day. (What comes to mind is the teacher on Ferris Bueller’s Day Off!) Add your own personal style to your delivery of teaching, but keep it energetic and alive!
There were certain subjects I didn’t enjoy personally, however, I wasn’t going to let my students know that, as I didn’t want that to influence how they viewed a subject just because it didn’t enthuse me. In addition, I didn’t want them to perceive this subject unimportant.
Involving students as much as possible, by asking their opinions and ideas also is appreciated. The message sent is saying your opinion is valued and you have the ability to contribute to what we are learning. Learning can go both ways even if you are the teacher!
Help them consider the big picture with perspective and possibilities. Learning particular subjects for some students can seem pointless and there are ways around this problem. Ask what activities/hobbies/ careers are they interested in and demonstrate how that particular subject can relate or is part of it. For example science, maths, history, sociology and language skills are all used in cooking, sport, architecture, fashion and the list goes on. It’s just a matter of the teacher being creative and recognising the possible need to create perspective.
Be flexible with delivery. There is nothing more boring than learning most of the subjects inside the classroom in the same way day in and day out. So many subjects can be also taught outside, on field trips, through role-play, art, drama, debates, surveys, experiments etc. One time I needed to teach the children a variety of things such as hygiene, manners, etiquette and how to make lists, budgeting, cooking etc. So we set about planning a decent sized picnic on the grass and students learnt all the above skills in doing so. When I was in high school I remember it being such a lovely day outside so my friend and I thought let’s complete our work outside the classroom. Well, what a commotion! Yes in hindsight we probably should have asked first, however, the teacher was absolutely horrified to see us studying outside. We actually got more work done!
Basically, if you’re not enthused to teach and have a passion and love for it – please don’t do it. The negative effects can have tremendous long term outcomes on students who may be “put off” learning, think they are not talented in a particular area or develop a hatred of teachers and worse. It’s a huge responsibility to be a teacher and great ones know why enthusiasm is important in teaching, and not just something to do or for the money, as you have the opportunity to influence young lives in a wonderful way.