I am a Toastmaster. I have been a Toastmaster for about six years. A friend of a friend asked me if I’d like to attend a meeting back in 2011 “for a kick”, and I was immediately intrigued and then addicted. If you’ve never been to a meeting, I encourage you to attend as a guest. You may not be bitten by the bug, as I was, but you’ll probably have a good time.
The founder of Toastmasters, Ralph Smedley said, “The simple fact is that we grow or learn or work better when we enjoy what we are doing, and this is the secret of success in Toastmasters.” Maybe that’s why I’ve always taken to it on at such a deep level.
I’ve recently been preparing for a presentation, and I’ve had to go over a lot of information about Toastmasters. That’s where I read the quote. It made me reflect on my own philosophy about teaching college and university students. I’ve long said, “It helps if there is some entertainment value while you’re teaching.” This is not to say that it has to be a party or that you have to put on a show, but a congenial atmosphere and classroom activities that are planned to provide as much enjoyment as possible help.
There are any number of ways to help students enjoy themselves. Here are three:
- Small group work. I had a manager watch one of my lessons years ago. One of his suggestions was to have students work in small groups at some point during the lesson. After an initial eye roll, I decided to give it a try. It really worked. They seemed to appreciate the change in atmosphere and in focus. As an extra added bonus, I got to go back to the manager and tell him that I’d taken his suggestion (and that I’d done it reluctantly) and that it had worked. I thanked him.
- Allow time for student to talk amongst themselves. In my experience, expecting students to sit quietly throughout an entire class is a fool’s errand. I’ve found that if I let them talk sometimes, their need to talk doesn’t get bottled up. Every once in a while, I allow them to talk a bit. It feels like that allows them to get their talking out during the appropriate times and it’s less of an ‘ask’ for them to stay quiet for the rest of the lesson.
- Tell stories. I feel like there’s a whole blog post (or a series) on story telling. I’ll get to that. I’m a storyteller. My father is a storyteller. I come from a long line of storytellers. They illustrate points. They engage students in a way that mere facts and figures do not. Also, my stories are a peek into who I am. I am a bit ‘exotic’ because I am an American in a Dutch school, but do not underestimate your own exotic qualities. Even if you are teaching in your hometown, you are a different generation. You have experiences that your students have not. You lived through the Nineties (or Eighties or Seventies or…)
Do what you can to make your classes enjoyable for your students.
Share your ideas, tips and tricks.