Friday, June 17, 2011

Have You Noticed They Aren't That Kinesthetic Anymore?

Ten years ago our big push was kinesthetic learning because we had all these active, hands-on learners who needed to move around the room and get their hands on the material and do something with it in order to stay engaged for learning.

It was easy to do TPR (Total Physical Response) for days and days. It was easy to get actors for stories. You needed Kagan training to learn all the different ways to get kids up and moving.

I still believe in all those techniques and I still make my students get up out of their seats at least once or twice per 90-minute block.

But they aren’t into it like they used to be. They’d rather sit. I hear some people say how “lazy” kids are these days. I don’t find it helpful to ruminate on that thought, but I have recognized that these students are different, and rather than judging it or trying to change it, the important thing is to identify exactly how they are different so that we can use that in our teaching.

They aren’t kinesthetic anymore.

They’re relationship-oriented. (It’s Type 1 on the 4Mat wheel.)

They care about who likes them and who doesn’t like them. They are obsessed with it. Listen to them talk in the hallways. It’s all about which teachers like them and which teachers hate them.

If they think I don’t like them, they will resist everything I try to do like mad. It used to be that if a kid thought you weren’t crazy about them (in second language acquisition theory, anyway) it would raise the affective filter and hinder their learning a bit.

Now there is more at stake than that. Yes, they won’t learn as well, but I can also expect misery in the classroom as far as behavior problems, if they believe I don’t like them.

This year I made absolutely certain that whenever I had to get on to a student, I never, ever let them get the idea I didn’t like them or that I was even mad at them. I showed no anger, ever. My classroom management improved a hundredfold just with this one, simple change.

I know (believe me I know) how hard it is to NOT show anger or even slight perturbation when on the inside you’re seething. But personally, I won’t do it, now that I’ve seen the difference it makes. Not with these kids, these days. If I show anger I’ll pay for it for weeks, maybe months, in a damaged relationship.

My students think I’m the most patient person in the world. Little do they know…I’m just being selfish. J I want students learning Spanish and smooth classroom interactions, in that order. And with today’s kids, that means I’ve got to build relationships. I’ve got to convince them I like them, that I enjoy having them around, that I think they are cool.

It’s weird, too, because the more I’ve worked on convincing them of that, the more it is true. I really do like them, value them, and enjoy their company. We had a blast together this past year. And now they do whatever I ask (for the most part,) because they know I care about them and their learning more than anything else, and because for them, it’s all about relationship.

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