Whew! Somebody get me a FAN up in here!
Did somebody say… MOTIVATION??
Today, I want to talk about making connections with our students. Now, I’ve taught first graders before (3 loooooong years!) and I know that from the moment they walk into your classroom, you are worshiped. I still remember the day I was trying a new shade of lipstick and little Lexie looked up at me as she walked in the door and with awe in her voice said, “Mrs. Cobb, you look extra beautiful today.” I was constantly showered with love and affection and compliments. They were sweet.. but first grade really wasn’t for me.
Now that I teach middle school, those sweet loving darlings are certainly a thing of the past! Now, my little darlings are coated with a rough and “cool” exterior that I’ve got to somehow break through if I’m ever going to compete with the memory of that first grade teacher. Not that I need to be loved and worshipped by all… but life as a teacher is DEFINITELY easier (and more meaningful) when your students feel connected with you, because it’s that connection that can rub off that exterior layer AND get you an extra layer of respect that can definitely come in handy in tough times.
Specifically, I’d like to talk about motivating middle school boys today. If you didn’t already know that I’m a HUGE NFL FANATIC, then go ahead and absorb some of that now because I’m going to be NUTS over football come September! My love for all things NFL (and *especially* the New Orleans Saints – can you tell I’m wearing my jersey in my profile picture?) has taken me a LONG way in bonding with my middle school boys. While they’re not ALL football fans, this IS Louisiana, and the vast majority of them are. My goal every weekend during football season is to buckle down Saturday with housework and schoolwork so that on Sunday, I can kick back and watch football ALL DAY LONG. The 12pm game, followed by the 4pm game, a quick shower and some mac and cheese, and it’s time for the prime time game. I *might* have a problem. I love getting to school on Monday mornings and discussing it with my students. I LOVE impressing my boys with my knowledge of all things football. And I sincerely LOVE the bonding it brings.
It must be luck that school starting and the start of football season coincide so closely. So many of my boy football fans also play football for our school, and it’s easy for me to make every game since my own son, Tyler (who’s going to 7th grade, and of course, is one of MY students) also plays. When I go to football games, my husband has gotten used to being my partner in note-taking. He holds the list of all the players and their numbers and I watch for great plays – throws, catches, tackles, anything, and write them down. I put my list on my podium the next day and make sure to call students out when they come to class on the awesome play they made. What a difference this makes!!! I know that many teachers attend sporting events to see their students play, but making sure to catch them doing well – and calling them out on it in front of their peers will get you much farther. Especially if that student is one you aren’t able to compliment often in class.
Since I teach literature, I really take this football thing to a WHOLE new level – not just as a method for connecting. I *LOVE* finding literary elements in football and sharing it with my students. Here’s one of my favorite examples from last year. We won’t lament on the Saints sad story of a season last year, except to say that this moment came at the end of a very long and disappointing game. With all hope gone and only a few remaining seconds on the clock, Drew Brees (our quarterback for you non-football people) led the offense back onto the field to take the last couple of snaps that would end the game. The announcer said, upon seeing Brees enter the field, “And here comes the captain, ready to go down with his ship.”
So I told this story to all of my middle school classes… WHAT would Mrs. Cobb want you to know about that situation?
Right! What a great metaphor! Anything else??
ONE 8th grade boy realized it could also be an allusion to the poem by Walt Whitman that we had studied. WOW. Now THAT’S literature! Ha!
Back onto the subject of making connections with your students and motivating them.. here is a video that I showed my middle schoolers last year. It’s a GREAT sappy story that is full of hope, and I actually used it as a tool to teach theme. After watching it, we discussed the theme of the video clip (actually a news article) and it’s VERY obvious so it made a great example. It’s the life story of my FAVORITE player, Jimmy Graham, who had a hard life that included being abandoned by his mother and his struggles with foster care and the values he possesses that got him where he is today. Tell me, how many of you have students that might identify with his story? It’s definitely worth 7 minutes of your time!
Oh, all this talk about football has got me salivating at the mouth for a great GAME!
Be sure to read other posts about motivating our students at Joanne’s Linky, Student Motivation Saturdays.