Teacher Secrets — Engagement


Good teachers engage their students in learning. And the teachers are not above using gimmicks to accomplish the task!

Dave showed up at Georgia Southern University’s Christmas tree lighting activities wearing his Santa hat, not the entire suit.  But given his authentic white beard and his natural love for little ones, children wandered over to chat with Jolly Old St. Nick.This little blond expressed such seriousness as she approached, that Dave crouched down to be on her level, a good teacher secret all by itself! The fact that another child seemed to already be forming a waiting line did not deter this girl. She wanted to talk and study this Santa character.

It didn’t take long for Austyn Grace and Taylor Faith to come alongside and stake their claims on their “Santa Grandpa.” Although our granddaughters had no idea who this little outsider was,  they took an immediate interest in what grandpa was saying to her.

In a few seconds, AG and TF tuned into the conversation and listened too.

While I never used a Santa outfit, I did try to engage my students in a project to improve their oral grammar. Every Monday morning for a nine-week quarter, I awarded each student 10 extra credit points. Then, clip board in hand, I subtracted a point for every grammatical error I heard them make during the week. (And, no, I did not allow anyone to drop into the negative point category!).  A student did NOT lose the point if a fellow student supplied the  correct word before I made the oral correction. Thus, if Gracie Grammar said, “Me and the girls want to…” and a classmate jumped in and corrected with, “No, she means ‘the girls and I,'” Gracie did not lose a point.

Initially, I made many corrections of what had simply become sloppy habits. “Oh, right, I know that,” echoed through the halls, heard from those who had just forfeited a point to my weekly point system. Before long, I could hesitate just a brief moment, and someone would rush to the aid of another student; they took over correcting one another. It also didn’t take long for students to recognize errors made by their parents, and high school students love to “help” their folks! Long after his daughter took my class, her Dad and I had a standard exchange at school sporting events.

Flo: “Hi, Stan. How are you doing?”

Stan: (pause) “I’m doing (pause, pause) just fine.” He wasn’t about to decide between good and well!

Today former students often write or tell me about correcting their kids’ grammar. And hearing such reports makes this former teacher smile.

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