Tag Archives: Children

They’re watching us.

In the Spotlight

I’m a natural born nerdy geek, which is why my profession chose me. I’m a teacher. I’ve always been one, even when I was in school. Few other things give me the amount of satisfaction I receive when I see a student’s eyes light up with understanding. To see my students implement what I’ve taught them is a joy to me.

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Important elements of teaching include encouraging the students not to give up, impressing on them not to settle for less than what they can achieve, and showing them that they can do far more than they think they can. I tell about my failures in order to show them how the failures contribute to the successes.

Author Spotlight

One of my goals in teaching is to produce more effective teachers, though not necessarily in classrooms. Parents, friends, and co-workers are teachers, too, though some do more harm than good. In fact, I am not everyone’s favorite person. Ha! I’m not usually their favorite teacher, either. I can be a hard taskmaster.

Imagine my surprise Monday when I walked into school and was met by excited students and teachers directing me to the “Authors in the Spotlight” wall put up by the fourth graders. I was truly amazed that two of the eighteen students in that class had chosen me and featured my books. I was in exalted company: Dahl, Riordan, O’Connor, Morgan, Park, and others.

I’ve taught these children for five years. They know I’ve published seven books because I’ve donated my books to school auctions, and I’ve shown the students my Amazon page. I wanted them to know they could publish and control their own work.

I was very happy to be featured, and I was truly glad that I have always written clean fiction. There is nothing there I would be embarrassed about my students reading, though my books aren’t children’s books. Just another reason to keep my material PG and PG-13.

The children are always watching.

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Learning by doing…

Photo: Zhao! (Creative Commons Flickr)

Photo: Zhao! (Creative Commons Flickr)

How does one learn to tell a story effectively? My apprenticeship took place in the time-honored School of Hard Knocks. I fell in love with the power of stories through reading books, but basic story skills were built through teaching children.

Children are honest. If they aren’t getting it, if I am not connecting, I will know right away. First comes the fidgeting, and then the faces. Those expressions can be priceless, right? The listeners in this picture are dialed in. Hats of to the storyteller!

I teach middle and high school, and the feedback there is top-notch. For years teens have helped hone my comic timing. Nowadays I can be a terror when crossed, for my students never quite know what I will say.

To illustrate, one hapless 7th grader was talking to a girl at the scoring table recently. Over the top of my reading glasses I gave him the Death Ray Look. “Mr. Smith,” I said, and the rest of the class rustled to attention. They know that tone of voice and waited to see what would happen next.  “I realize that you are irresistible to women,” I said crisply. “But you must resist them. Go sit down.” Amid laughter the poor boy went slinking back to his seat, but smiling too, because my rebuke had included a compliment. Well, kind of.

Photo: Zhao! (Creative Commons Flickr)

Photo: Zhao! (Creative Commons Flickr)

The most challenging audience–and I taught this age group for 12  summer quarters–is the 3-4-5 year-old crowd. I was the one to present the junior church Bible lessons, and I learned to keep 30-40 of them (plus parents and student helpers) in the palm of my hand through dramatic storytelling.

Unexpected special effects helped.  I came up with all kinds of illustrations, raiding the church kitchen and janitor’s closet and my classroom (our Christian school is on the campus) for supplies. Fortunately, when I burned the prophet Jeremiah’s scroll (like King Jehoiakim did), there was not quite enough smoke to cause a problem.

Learning by doing–sink or swim–do or die. When you’re in front of a live audience, you have no choice but to deliver!

So what skills have you learned in the School of Hard Knocks? What new skills are you trying out now?