Keep Them Fascinated

Photo of the Milky Way galaxy
Photo by Greg Rakozy

Keep Them Fascinated

When newly minted teachers network after their first few weeks on the job, they invariably repeat the same cliché: “I learned more in the first month of teaching than I did in four years of college.” And so it is.

As the latest batch of fledgling educators sat in Morris Finder’s “Fundamentals of Teaching Methods” in April of 1979 at SUNY Albany and the start of practice teaching loomed, one frustrated undergrad implored the wizened professor to divulge the secret of classroom success. All expected to hear the wisdom of the ages. Instead, the teacher simply stated, “Keep ‘em fascinated.”

Thinking the instructor must be joking, another student begged, “Come on, really. What’s the secret?” Finder repeated, “I mean it: Keep ‘em fascinated.”

Admittedly the ultimate in understatement yet a big no-brainer for experienced educators, this advice can be lost on self-absorbed, zealous presenters. More than one eminent television journalist has expressed this axiom a little differently: “There are no uninteresting subjects, only uninteresting presentations of those subjects.”
New teachers do well to take this old professor’s advice to heart, taking into account their audience’s orbit.

While preparing the next lesson ask, “What about this subject connects with the students’ interests? Is there a local issue they will find irresistible? Often an angle exists that can be worked in the service of their attentiveness.

At this moment, ubiquitous Pokémon GO grabs headlines: travel agents tout the game as a “new way to see America”; recently two distracted players fell to their deaths. Clever educators are already planning ways to mine interest in this trend.

Try the following as a class bell ringer: “In the next minute and a half, list five smart safety rules to observe when playing Pokémon GO. Then transition to your subject of the day—once you compose an effective segue.”

Finder’s advice illustrates an important point: Spend as much time thinking about How you will present today’s material as What you plan to say.

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