Great teachers recognize a teachable moment. They take advantage of unexpected circumstances and use those as a backdrop to teach a lesson. These are often the most powerful for our children because the conversation is honest, immediate and real. Unfortunately, these moments do not occur often enough, so the onus is on educators. Perhaps we need to change our mindset and think of these educational gems as EACHable moments. We need to drop the T and begin EACHing and creating those EACHable moments.
Drop the T?
Yes. We want to reach each student. Knowing our students and what makes them tick is imperative to creating EACHable moments. By simplifying and redirecting how we approach education we can affect immediate change. More of our classrooms across the nation have teachers who are alternatively certified and through no fault of their own, lack the necessary skills to engage their students. Additionally, we often see teachers who still view themselves as vessels to pour information into their students. Just ask the most successful teachers. They know that the old “sage on the stage” mentality is alive and still wildly unsuccessful. We must look at each student in our rooms and learn what will reach him/her. We must keep it real. It’s essentially IEP for everyone.
I don’t have time for an IEP for all my students.
Yes. You are right. However, you do have time for an Individual EACHing Plan because it takes very little time. Our most effective teachers do this naturally. They make it part of their job to learn as much as they can about each student in their classrooms. They do some type of interest inventory at the start of the year and then use the information it garners all year. Remember those old, “What I did for summer vacation” papers that became metaphorical fodder for jokes about school? Those actually weren’t too far off for finding EACHable moments. The schools supply important statistical data in the form of percentages about our students; however, those percentages must be used to see each student as a whole.
But it’s second semester. Is there still time?
Yes. Believe it or not, there are teachers who still do not know all their students’ names in May. That example may seem extreme, but many teachers know only names. We need to become the positive politician in our classrooms. The most successful politician is elected because he/she makes the electorate feel important and as though their needs will be met. Our students elect to listen to us based on whether we demonstrate that we care about their needs. More importantly, they feel that we know each of their strengths and needs. Half of the school year is gone, but there is still time to make a difference.
Can I start now?
Yes. Start this moment. Greet each student daily. Genuinely ask how they are. Listen to them. Build a trusting environment Do you hear the side conversations with their friends? Your earnest listening pivots the moment. You may hear about last night’s soccer game or how a big brother was arrested or how Mom cooked dinner or what was on television or how a dog ran away or how hard the homework was. Listen and offer a high-five, a hug, a supportive word, a laugh or just a meaningful nod. All students react well because we all need confirmation, and you provide that. You listen. You are EACHing.
Knowing their home environment really helps?
Yes. Once you begin to know each student’s environment, build lesson plans around personal experiences. Each zip code produces a vocabulary for you to use in the classroom. Use the names of their supermarkets, libraries, bus stops, television programs, video games etc. You are creating EACHable moments. Consider making math problems based on their real world. Create social study lessons based on the history that surrounds them. Cut through cultural biases by inserting their cultures into your lessons. No matter the subject or grade level, these seemingly small insertions facilitate immediate learning opportunities. One of your fifth-grade students wants to be a veterinarian; find a local vet who will be a pen pal to offer encouragement and real stories. You are beginning a poetry unit in a high school English class; call on one of your students who raps to help you explain the importance of rhythm in verse. You are EACHing.
Is it that simple?
Yes. We all flourish when we know someone cares. Focus on how to reach each student. EACHing creates the EACHable moments. It is honest; it is real. It needs to be immediate. Drop the T and go EACH