At least once a week, I hear a student say, “You should be an actor” or ask, “Why weren’t you a drama teacher?” I always laugh and remind students that my passion is English, but it’s a question I’ve been reflecting on a lot recently.
Of course part of the reason for these comments and questions is that when we read plays, I enthusiastically teach acting skills and the importance of purposefully using one’s voice to deliver lines. However, a bigger reason for these questions is due to how I deliver my lessons. I am constantly playing with my voice in the deliverance of different parts of my lessons.
For example, I’ve had both students and colleagues laugh at how I call out names when I’m passing back materials; frequently, I call names as if I’m introducing them at some sort of sports game. Sure, students will cringe and might laugh at me, but I get a little chuckle and smile from them, and that’s what’s important to me. I find doing silly things like calling out names in an announcer voice or cheering someone on when they pass in work has made my students much more open with me. And although my students might act like they’re embarrassed for me sometimes, I can tell that also think it’s fun. I had a student recently who passed in some work late, and when I replied, “one more assignment to go” (in a chipper, but not DJ-announcer cheering-voice), she said she was upset I didn’t cheer; when she passed in her last late assignment, I happened to be working with someone else, and when I finished with the other student, she reminded me that I said I’d cheer for her, so off I went with my “woos” and clapping. Did I look strange to anyone who might have walked by room? Probably. But she went back to her seat with a smile on her face, and that’s what counts!
I joke with my students that my weird tones make the class even more exciting and keep them on their toes, but there’s actually a much deeper method to my madness. I am not afraid to be weird in front of my students; I’m not afraid to make a fool of myself, and this is important to my teaching philosophy and how I want my students to engage with learning in my classroom. I’ve had students get anxious about reading in class or answering a question (for fear of being wrong), but I’m able to say to them “‘Insert name,’ do you see me every class? You can never look as silly as me! Don’t be worried!” And do you know what my students’ responses often are? “True…” and then they try. By being dorky and silly in class, I am able to empower my students to take risks that they may not be willing to take otherwise. I want my students to view learning as an exciting process, and I want them to be comfortable making mistakes, taking risks, and, well, being a little dorky!
I don’t write this post to suggest teachers should always be dorky and goofy; I’m certainly not like this all of the time. My goal is to teach my students the skills they will need to move on in education, but the best way to do that is by making a connection with my students, which, I believe, this does.