When students share a list of their past academic struggles, what are the most common reasons given? Typical responses may range from a lack of academic support, all the way to an absence of connection in the classroom. Thankfully, GCU offers students a plethora of academic support, so that concern can be ruled out with ease. However, solving the issue of connection in the classroom requires a bit more finesse. Educators may opt to enhance pedagogy in teaching by fostering a positive and engaging classroom which requires a spark of creativity, a positive outlook, and ongoing assessment and application.
The Art of Pedagogy
In recent years, educators and students have been forced to adapt rapidly in countless ways. The pressure weighs heavily on educators to successfully meet expectations by presenting students with the same quality of learning experience despite modality shifts or rapid societal and economic changes. At first glance, this seems like an overwhelming task, but in reality, it presents an opportunity to creatively modify pedagogy in teaching and personalize student learning within a positive framework.
We all remember that one teacher (or more) who taught their subject matter passionately, pushed us to achieve beyond our comfort level, or spoke encouragement into our goals and dreams. If we were truly blessed, they ticked off all three boxes. The beauty of education is that we are gifted a sacred opportunity to connect, to leave a lasting impact, and to motivate our students in overcoming challenges on their paths to success.
Often, we surmise that this must be done through sweeping, large-scale ideas, actions or adjustments, yet the truth is that in everyday life, successful pedagogy begins through small and consistent actions. These actions include equipping students with extra resources such as assignment video explanations, clear classroom guidelines relayed with a positive tone, and encouraging yet constructive one-on-one feedback. Educators who embrace organized and proactive pedagogy make it clear to students they are in their corner and on the same team, while also painting a beautiful picture of what is to come if only they persist.
Joy-Filled Renewal in Teaching and Learning
If you have recently traveled on an airplane, you have heard over the intercom “put your oxygen mask on first” while watching a supportive flight attendant act out the proper procedures to follow in case of an emergency. As educators, we may forego our “oxygen” and choose to prioritize the needs of our students above our own.
Unsurprisingly, teaching from a place of deficit does zero favors for anyone. When we teach with a “low battery” sign flashing, we risk teaching on autopilot instead of from a place of ingenuity, fulfillment and joy. Although certain seasons require moments of grit where we must push through, low-battery emergencies should be rare to avoid complete burnout.
Educators must set aside time to recharge so as to avoid stale pedagogy. Through ongoing personal investment in what brings us joy, we are able to present our students with a renewed sense of creativity in our instructional strategies. A positive and inspired educator impacts their students and colleagues in meaningful ways. It is of vital importance that educators take time to rediscover sources of joy, and to refill (not just the coffee).
A good practice is to start small by incorporating joy-giving tasks in short 15-minute increments throughout the day. Consider activities such as going for a walk or run, reading one or two chapters in a new book or devotional, gardening, writing in a gratitude journal, talking with a friend, or making a cup of coffee or tea. Whatever brings you a small dose of joy, find it and guard it in your daily routine, and remember to unplug at least one full day each weekend.
Ongoing Application of Pedagogy Methods
Practically speaking, how do we as educators balance motivating our students to achieve, while remaining positive and engaging in our outlook and instruction? The simple answer is that we model the behaviors for them and lead by example. The involuntary actions of yawning when someone else yawns, or smiling when someone else smiles, demonstrates how we directly and indirectly impact others with their actions.
When we are positive in the midst of completing daily tasks and overcoming obstacles, so are our students. Applications of these pedagogy methods will look different in every classroom and at every grade level. It is also wise to remember that even if a strategy currently works, it may not continue to be the best solution. A rapidly changing world requires a near constant appraisal and awareness of how students are receiving and processing new information.
Student engagement may ebb and flow, but each class of students will bring an opportunity for varied personalized and generalized approaches. Being adaptable to student needs ensures relevance and ongoing success. One tried and true solution in my own classes has been a focus on two universal languages — music and good news.
Every Monday I compile a “Song of the Week” newsletter and a “Some Good News” newsletter to share with students and colleagues. The goal is to spark conversation and allow students to connect with both me and their classmates on a more personal level. This practical technique demonstrates investment in student well-being, provides insight into who I am as their educator, and reminds students that their unique contributions are vital to building a thriving classroom community.
As students participate in these conversations, they increasingly venture out of their comfort zones to discuss academic content they were initially hesitant to engage with. This confirms the notion that when students feel connected in a classroom, it breaks down barriers, motivates, and encourages success.
If you are reading this today and you need a boost of musical encouragement with a song of the week, or a dose of some good news to transform your day, click on the links below. Remember, as an educator you are integral to the outlook of your students. To motivate students there must be connection, and to foster connection there must be meaningful positive engagement led by an educator recharged and ready for the challenges that lie ahead. Pedagogy in education can be the solution to academic struggles for students as well as an artful approach to joy-filled teaching that is brimming with creativity, adaptability and joy.
Read a sample of the newsletter:
Subscribe to Song of the Week:
Approved by Online Full Time Faculty for the College of Education on Nov. 17, 2022.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.