This week I have been thinking a lot about our students, their brains, and joy.

Let’s say you are a 10-year-old kid. You go into your room and open your Google Classroom or Zoom meeting – whatever is delivering your schoolwork for the day.

The teacher on the other side of the screen presents the material to learn. It is there. Organized, concretely laid out, beautifully written.

And yet, the student sighs –  a heavy sigh. Their eyes roll to the sky and they trudge through the task.

Think of something that works like this for you in your life. Maybe you have to complete your taxes or clean a bathroom. Perhaps you need to work out or cook something healthy to eat. You know these things are what you should be doing, but to complete them means you too will sigh, roll your eyes, and trudge through.

What if life didn’t have to be like this. What if those very tasks we slog through could be framed in our minds differently and experienced as joyous?

Is it possible for a kid to get up and meet their teacher on the screen and experience joy?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this question and it has caused me to create these ideas – to help tutors to think about their students – and find ways to bring in the joy.

Notice your “nonverbal communication”

  • Smile
  • Look into the computer camera – not at the screen – this allows you to connect better with your student
  • Open your stance
  • Show your hands in the screen to add communication

Notice your energy level as students enter the lesson and throughout the lesson

  • Provide positive and inviting energy for your lesson
  • Intentionally, set the tone for your lesson through the use of music, color, graphic design of materials

Communicate why.

  • Share with your students the power of what they are learning as it applies to their brain development
  • If they are writing – tell them how wonderful it is to have the tools to share their ideas in their brain!
  • If they are learning math – tell them how powerful it is to make meaning out of the mathematical concepts (and be sure you are helping them to make meaning- not just know how to do the steps)
  • If they are learning to read – tell them how wonderful it is to take various perspectives and make inferences (and how important it is to be critical and informed when reading text posted on the Internet)

Take a little time to slowly ask “how are you?” and/or “how do you want to learn this?”

  • My favorite lessons involve teaching a skill or process using an area of interest
  • Ask your student what they have been up to – and do this in a way that is slow and steady. See the video for an example!
  • You can teach within areas of joy – and you can teach your student about how an excellent skill to have is to be able to make an unpreferred task more joyous by adding in elements of connection and happiness. For me, I do not prefer to organize my desktop files, but I have found to make this more joyous by playing my favorite podcast or music. I have also switched the narrative in my mind to be positive and not negative around this task. “When I file, I am selecting what I chose to keep on my computer. This computer is my work and is an extension of myself. I want to take great care of it and me!”

Shift the narrative. 

  • Notice what your student is telling themselves when they endeavor a task during your lesson
  • Typically, tutors are brought in to work on areas of challenge – so often self-talk is negative and self-deprecating
  • Provide suggestions for positive self-talk. You can use sentence starters such as “I can..”; “I am..”, “I have…”, “I choose..” to help.
  • For example, my student who does not have wonderful organization skills has adopted a system to work within. He has improved his ability to be organized, but in his mind, he keeps telling himself he’s disorganized and will never be on top of his tasks. We have reframed this by taking charge of his brain and creating a mantra we write at the start of each session: “I have skills to be organized and I choose to use them.”

In sum, tutors have the ability to help students to find joy in their learning – even through difficult subjects and processes. We can use these tips to help our students, and find fun along the way!

If you wish to learn more about The Evolved Teaching School and community, join our Facebook Group and stay tuned for professional development opportunities just for tutors this summer!