Relentless Enthusiasm

October 6, 2009

Yesterday I talked about bringing my own enthusiasm and commitment to class. When I taught in a high school alternative program, my students called me relentlessly enthusiastic because I generally managed to maintain my cheerfulness and energy in the face of many school-sucks-I-don’t-wanna-be-here attitudes. I have to admit that it was easier to be enthusiastic with them than it is to be enthusiastic when I face what appears to be the disinterest of students who are paying to be in class and still don’t seem to care. Honestly, I just don’t understand. If you’d like to show your interest in class, here are some things you can do. (NOTE: The things I share here are all student behaviors I’ve encountered within the past year, not artifacts from the past!):

• Read the syllabus—all of it—and be familiar with the requirements and due dates.

• Go to class and stay awake. (Attention is a deliberate act that can take more work some days than others!)

• Be on time and don’t leave early (or explain if either is necessary).

• SLANT is something I teach all my students, asking them to SLANT sometimes just to give me a boost. Here’s what it stands for:

Sit up straight,
Actively through Attention,
Nod from time to time, and
Track (if I move, your eyes should move with me!).

• Speak up and participate in discussions and activities. (If you aren’t comfortable doing this, talk with the instructor. This may be a cultural difference, or it may be shyness. In either case, this is something you should address so you don’t leave a wrong impression.)

• Read assigned materials and do other required work.

• Hand work in on time (if something happens and work will be late, let the teacher know why as well as when the work will be in, remembering that this is a negotiation and that sometimes, late work is not accepted).

• Ask related questions (not questions designed to get off-topic) and contribute in ways not prompted by the teacher. Add something beyond what’s required.

• Proofread work before handing it in.

• Hand in work that looks like it was prepared with care, not thrown together at the last minute.

• Put the phone away. Ditto for computers unless their use is directly related to what’s happening in the class.

• Don’t try to substitute sucking up for genuine engagement.

I realize that a student can be doing all of these things and still not be interested in a class, but sometimes pretending to be engaged can lead to genuine interest. And there’s another benefit besides creating a good impression: it is much less stressful to go to class prepared, both in the moment and when it comes time to take a test.

How do you show that you’re interested in a class?

I think the one lesson I have learned is that there is no substitute for paying attention.
• Diane Sawyer


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