Core scripture: “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22).
Message: One of the main jobs of a teacher is to provide joy to their students. Did you ever have a teacher that did that for you? Someone that cared enough to really get to know you and provided you an opportunity to learn while experiencing complete euphoria about an exciting lesson? I remember I had a professor like that at KU. He knew us all too well. We were suckers for Seinfeld. As the last episode of Seinfeld approached, he challenged us all to go home and actually write the final episode. I remember running home and even getting all my roommates involved with sprouting ideas for that Creative Writing class project. All because we were stoked that a teacher cared enough to tailor a lesson around our interests. I still think my script was the best although my professor ranked me as runner up. Blasphemy!
The second Fruit of the Spirit is joy. When my students have joy, their joy becomes mine. That is why I try to take a walk in their shoes, taking note of what makes them tick. Five years ago, it was all about the boy band One Direction. Of course, I have had my Beliebers through the years, otherwise known as fans of Justin Bieber. (Yikes!) This year? YouTubers reign supreme. I heard names of people I had never heard of before. Sensations like Liza Koshy and Logan Paul. It was somewhat painful for me to hop on YouTube this morning after my morning quiet time to check out some of these videos. Their videos were not necessarily appealing to me at all, but for some reason they are to my students. They idolize these YouTubers to the status of celebrity.
An idea sprung into my head … What if I totally rebelled against the ordinary and did a lesson or two about these goofball YouTubers? EdPuzzle is an app on the iPad that can take any video and turn it into a lesson by asking questions. Why not show a Liza Koshy video and test the kids over something simple like fact and opinion? Or text structures? Why not pull up a Logan Paul video and test the kids over literary devices? It wouldn’t be that difficult. And it is a total win-win with the kids because they are learning while watching their favorite YouTubers. They might not even KNOW they are learning! That wouldn’t even be homework for them; it would be funwork. Those lessons would be the talk of the dinner table for all my students.
I want to give my students joy while they are with me, pure bliss as they explore the Language Arts curriculum. Other teachers are taking to it too. A good friend of mine is doing a Social Studies theme around the zombie apocalypse. My boys about screamed their heads off when they saw Mario and Luigi being showcased in a glassed casing in their school. Or how about another teacher from my past that gave me the homework of watching Sportscenter for a project. Are you kidding me? Watching Dan Patrick and Craig Kilborn for class? You had better believe I was all over that one! All it takes is a little creativity and you can make it happen.
So, what are you waiting for? The sky is the limit on this one. It is time to toss out the same old, same old lessons and replace them with something fresh. Something new. Something that will make learning fun. Something that might make you cringe a little but would put a smile on your students’ faces. Think about it … our lessons are not for us. Our lessons are for our students. Anything to inspire. Their joy will be shouted from the rooftops, but that is not the greatest joy. The greatest joy will be from above where God relishes in seeing His children happy.
Challenge: You will never know their interests unless you invest in your students. Find one thing that makes your students tick and create a lesson around it. Elementary teachers might choose a theme like Mario or Minecraft, while middle school teachers might use a lesson about the newest YouTuber out there. High schoolers? Try something with the music they listen to. Whatever you end up choosing, dive in wholeheartedly and embrace their interests.
Journal/Accountability: Journal or talk to a reliable Christian friend about ideas for lessons that revolve around your students’ interests.
Quote: “All I ever wanted was to reach out and touch another human being not just with my hands but with my heart.” (Tahereh Mafi, Shatter Me)
Bible verses: “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand” (Psalm 16:11).
“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4).
Prayer: Father, I pray you will guide me in making connections with my students. Let me step out of my own shoes and take a walk with them, tailoring my lessons to peak their interest. Amen.