Tag Archives: classroom

second lesson: health, appearance

I’ve cared about my health and appearance a lot more in the last few years. Being healthy and looking healthy will help you in so many different ways, in and out of the classroom. The cumulative effect is huge. I eat a lot of fruits and vegetables and avoid junk food and packaged food. I keep grains to a minimum. I snack on apples, pumpkin seeds, pistachios, sometimes dark chocolate. I exercise, both strength exercises and sprinting. I already mentioned that I stay active in the classroom. I notice other teachers (usually using less energy in the classroom) complain at the end of the day or week about how exhausted they are. I feel great. Your students will also respect you more if you have a lot of energy and if you look healthy and strong instead of sick and fat and weak. Classroom discipline will also be much better if they see that you have all the physical and mental energy that you need to discipline them.

So how do you look and feel healthy instead of sick? Nutrition matters. Avoid any kind of junk food. Cakes, cupcakes, candy, biscuits, crackers, ice cream, pretzels, french fries and the like are all off the table. I won’t pretend that I never eat them, but I keep it to a minimum. In the long run, I’m much happier. If I have junk food at my house, I eat it. One of the best ways to limit your junk food is just not to buy it at the store and bring home. You’re forced to cook a real meal or eat a healthy snack. If you have to get something, don’t buy half a dozen kinds of things that you like to eat. Just one at a time, and you can’t buy more until you’ve finished the first one. Eat a ton of vegetables, and get a variety. I eat a lot of broccoli, onions, tomatoes and the like. But it’s hard to get all the energy your body needs with just stuff like that. Potatoes and other tubers can make up the bulk of your calories. Pumpkin and related melons are also excellent. Meat and eggs are plenty healthy, they have nutrients that you can’t get from fruits or vegetables. But they are more energy dense, so don’t go overboard. The cooking oils you usually find in the store have a fat profile different from what our cavemen ancestors ate when we were evolving. They have been shown increase your odds of getting cancer and heart disease and can even affect your mood. Avoid them as best you can. These days I usually just boil my food together. At first it will be less satisfying but your tastes will adjust and it will soon enough seem normal. It doesn’t have to be bland though, I will at things like garlic and chilies or even make a curry.

First lesson: General behavior in your classroom

1. Be active, open, happy, interactive, with quick reflexes.
One of the biggest things, especially at the kind of ESL jobs that teachers almost always begin in, is keeping students engaged and happy to be with you, especially for kids. I know in my case this took a while because I had to change my general character. I am an introvert. But even people like us can engage with others. We oftentimes have a lot of stuff bottled up. As long as we don’t have to teach all day long, an introvert can be just as effective as an extrovert because of this. But it takes a willingness to change and some practice.

When I am in the classroom, I am always moving around. It’s better to move with a purpose but failing that, just pacing to match the energy level you’re at or walking around the desks keeps students interested. It’s good to use body language when teaching, but try to make it have a purpose. Just waving your hands around without reason may just confuse students. Some kinds of body language are obvious: making a face to show an emotion or moving your hands up and down to show higher and lower. But you can also explain things by telling a story, talking as you act it out. Then, when you want to see if students can guess or remember something, do the action without saying it, ask who can say it.

Eye contact matters a surprising amount. If you’re speaking to one student, of course look in their eyes. But even when I’m talking to the class I don’t look at the board or above their heads, I look one student in the eyes a few seconds, then let my gaze move to another. Try to get everyone more or less equally. This will have a powerful unconscious effect on students. They will feel that you care about them, will stay more interested in the lesson, and be more emotionally invested in class. It will also have a positive effect on classroom discipline.