Teach Them to Remember

I have to admit there are times when I just don’t think I can say “without talking” or “please get started immediately” one more time without screaming.

We all know the importance of giving clear prompts and directions to students. In fact, I believe the ability to give clear instructions is one of the most important skills for a teacher to have.

But I have to admit there are times when I just don’t think I can say “without talking” or “please get started immediately” one more time without screaming. Why can’t our students remember how to do simple things like getting ready leave, especially since we do it every single day?

They’ve totally learned the routine, which is: Goof around until the teacher tells us to stop and reminds us what to do.

And how many times have I given “the lecture” outside my door after lunch? “Welcome back from lunch. When you get in the room, please go straight to your seat and begin reading silently.” Don’t they know by now?

Well, they do. They’ve totally learned the routine, which is: Goof around until the teacher tells us to stop and reminds us what to do.

One way to avoid this trap is to teach students to do the routine without being reminded. If I am using an incentive, I make sure they understand they will only get the incentive if they do the routine without me having to tell them how. If they seem to be forgetting, I sometimes say, “I wonder who is going to get (incentive) by remembering what to do without being reminded?”

If we expect our students to remember what to do, we also need to teach them how and when to remember it.

If we expect our students to remember what to do, we also need to teach them how and when to remember it. In other words, we need to teach them the trigger. We can’t expect students to do a routine without being reminded unless they know when to start.

In the lunch example, the students WERE following my routine. They were coming in and reading silently. It’s just that the trigger was me telling them to do it. After I trained them to remember it for themselves, the trigger was coming through the door after lunch.

They had been just as bored and frustrated hearing those phrases over and over as I had been saying them.

Side benefit: I actually had a few students thank me after I trained them to remember instead of waiting for me. They had been just as bored and frustrated hearing those phrases over and over as I had been saying them.

Have you successfully trained your students to be self-starters? How did you do it? I’d love to hear from you in the comments or in an email.

And now, as always, go create a great day for yourself and your students!

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Consistency or Flexibility?

As a student, one of the things I hated most was when a teacher would say one thing and then do something else.

In college I was incensed and outraged when one of my professors added an assignment that wasn’t on the syllabus. “She said our grade was going to be based on five papers and two tests,” I complained to my friends. “Now she adds in another assignment. It’s not fair!”

In high school, I hated it when a teacher would fail to enforce a rule or policy.

In high school, I hated it when a teacher would fail to enforce a rule or policy. Like the time my Spanish teacher threatened lunch detention for anyone who arrived late to class. So I went out of my way to arrange to keep my books in a friend’s locker so I could make it in time. And then she didn’t give detention to anyone who was late. I was angry and lost all respect for her.

As a young child, if my teacher said something and didn’t do it, I felt betrayed.

As a young child, if my teacher said something and didn’t do it, I felt betrayed. Mr. Nicolas said we were going get to do an art project on Tuesday, but when Tuesday rolled around, there was no art project. He lied to me! How could I ever trust him again?

Fast forward to me as a teacher. Do I always do everything I say I’m going to do? No, I don’t.

Fast forward to me as a teacher. Do I always do everything I say I’m going to do? No, I don’t. Sometimes I’m not allowed to do the thing I said I was going to do. Or sometimes I realize it really wasn’t such a good idea after all. Maybe I made a threat out of anger. Maybe I ran out of time. Maybe I tried it, and it wasn’t working.

But yet… Our students need to be able to count on us, and consistency is a crucial way to build trust. So how can we balance the need for flexibility with the need for consistency? In other words, when is it okay to change your mind, and when do you need to stand your ground?

It’s important to model for our students that making a mistake isn’t the end of the world and that sometimes we need to cut our losses and move on.

I believe you need to change your mind if you realize you made a mistake, particularly if your mistake involves impulsiveness, anger, or just plain old miscalculation. In fact, it’s important to model for our students that making a mistake isn’t the end of the world and that sometimes we need to cut our losses and move on. Apologize if necessary, explain your thinking, and lay out your new plan. And then make every effort to be gentle when your students make a mistake that involves impulsiveness, anger, or just plain miscalculation. Use it as a teachable moment. We’re all learning, right?

Sometimes students will test the limits to see if we mean what we say. When they do this, they are really asking, “Can I trust you?”

On the other hand, we should stand our ground if the decision is a good one, but we are getting pressure from students, parents, or others. Change can be hard, and learning new skills takes time. Sometimes students will test the limits to see if we mean what we say. When they do this, they are really asking, “Can I trust you?” We need to show them that they can by following through with what we said we would do.

How do you balance the need for consistency with the need for flexibility? Please leave a comment or email me with your suggestions and thoughts.

Now go create a great day for yourself and your students!

Katrina@AwesomeTeacherNation.com

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