How a DJ saved my teaching skills
By: Dominick Cooper
Now, when I saw a DJ saved my teaching skills, I’m not referring to the below video.
InDeep stayin’ groovy.
But really. Think back to the last wedding or dj-esque event you went to that was just AMAZING.
People were dancing.
There was laughter and fun.
And more importantly – YOU NEVER FORGOT IT.
As strange as it sounds though, DJs themselves are not these superhuman entertainment anomalies. They are TRAINED to be that way! And here’s the best part: Teachers can be trained that way too!
Now, I’m not saying teachers are going to now stand behind a DJ booth, spinning records about polynomials, and writhe about in a strange seizure they refer to as “dancing.” But, there are four key things that makes a great DJ and, in turn, can give your teaching skills a much needed boost:
ENTHUSIASM! ENTHUSIASM! ENTHUSIASM!
Next time you meet one of your friends, say “Hey! How ya doin?!” in a high, excited voice. 9 times out of 10, they will respond in a higher, more excited voice too. Why? Because enthusiasm and passion are contagious! I remember when I was DJing how one of my mentors told me:
“You’re going to have weddings where they are going to have picked the dumbest songs, in your opinion. But the thing is this – They don’t care about your opinion. It’s their wedding and their music. So that means their favorite songs are now your favorite songs and you have to be just as excited about them as you would for your own favorite artist.”
Now translate that to education: Teachers all over harp that they are “doing it for the kids.” If that’s the case, then adopt this new mentality. Your kids love twilight? That’s your new favorite. They can’t believe Justin Beiber is coming to town? Oh my goodness, you’re so impressed with that kid’s talent! You get the drift. But you have 120 kids and can’t favorite all their things? That’s ok. I didn’t have to listen to every Garth Brooks song to look like a country fan, and thankfully you don’t have to either. Find common ground and build on that – there’s ALWAYS common ground.
GET TO KNOW EVERYBODY
The best DJs I’ve known have made the events fun by giving random shout outs. “This next song is dedicated the salsa dancing champion from Accounting – Yes, Sam that is YOU!”
What?! How did the DJ know Sam?? Easy – he asked him his name and talked for 60 seconds. It’s really that simple but there are so many students in high schools who can’t even find one teacher that “really knows them.” During class, practice this method by just giving shout outs to students getting high marks and even shout outs for students getting low marks “Oh my goodness, guys! Nancy, Sarah, John, and Caleb ALL got a higher score than their last test! Give it up for them!” <See the enthusiasm?>
SET THE EXPECTANCY BAR HIGH
Many students go into a class and don’t expect a whole lot of learning (much less fun). That’s when you start off the school year saying, “Guys, I have to tell you something. I have been
waiting for this day all summer. I am SO EXCITED to get to teach all of you about Science! Now, this class is gonna be pretty tough and you’re going to have to work, but I’ll tell you one thing – this is going to be THE MOST FUN class you have all year!
Immediately when you say that, kids are going to either a) glow with excitement or b) look at you with a perplexed expression. Either way, you engaged them. Now, HERE’S THE IMPORTANT PART – You must NEVER over-promise and under-deliver. Don’t say words because they have shock value and it gets them excited if you’re not willing to put in the energy and enthusiasm to make this the most exciting class of the year.
DO MODEL OTHERS.
DON’T IMITATE OTHERS.
I can’t tell you how many teachers told me to “not try to be other teachers.” I never really knew if this was a pat on the back for uniqueness or a subtle defense of not “stealing” other teacher’s ideas. The fact of the matter is this – other teachers (and DJs) are doing stuff that works and you can do it too! Mrs. Johnson has a fantastic method of explaining place value in mathematics? Use it!
You can’t make quirky faces and voices like her to make it fun? That’s ok! Don’t try to! Make up a dance, a song, or maybe a fun art project. Everybody has some unique hook they can use to draw kids in. And, just like students can discover their own unique passions by observing different professions, you can discover your own hook by observing other teachers.
Dominick Cooper, Founder and Director of Launch Academy Tutoring Company, 2011 Winner of the Davinci Scholar Award for Creativity in Education, 2012 Nominee for Tulsa Young Entrepreneur of the Year, and University Guest Speaker on Education and Curriculum Design
If you want to check out how enthusiasm can effect classroom engagement, check out The Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta, Georgia.