Sunday, September 21, 2014
Create a better learning environment with Enthusiasm
On Sundays when I was in college, I would walk to a nearby convenient store to buy a newspaper and a cup of coffee. Behind the counter was an older man, perhaps in his sixties, who was just about the friendliest person I ever met. No matter how I felt before I went into the store, I always came out feeling good. I am not sure how his other customers felt, but his enthusiasm made a lasting impression on me.
A few years later, before I entered the classroom, I worked for a small, local beverage store as a cashier. I hated the job and remember feeling annoyed by the customers. Then, one day, I remembered the man from the convenient store and the way he made me feel. I decided to give enthusiasm a try. When a customer came in the store I made sure to greet them with a smile and a huge dose of enthusiasm. If they asked me how I was doing, I would always respond with a big "FANTASTIC!" The response I got was usually a look of shock, followed by a big grin. They would ask "why are you so happy" and I would just say "It's a great day." People who came in from a hard day at work could always count on my friendly smile and positive attitude to brighten their day. I also discovered that I soon felt better too and that I had more energy to get through the day. While I still didn't care for the job, my enthusiasm made it a lot more enjoyable.
I have been teaching for nearly two decades and each morning I greet my students with the same warmth and enthusiasm that I once used on customers. On the first day of school, my students usually react the way a first time customer would at my old job, but they quickly learn to return the joy. When I ask my students how they are doing, they know to respond with "FANTASTIC!" and it is always followed by a big smile.
So what are the benefits besides "feeling good?" First, I have found that struggling learners are much more engaged and willing to work because there is less threatening atmosphere. Second, I almost never have discipline problems and rarely have to send kids out of the room. Third, there is a greater atmosphere of cooperation between the students all which make for a better learning environment.
Each year my students have told me that they look forward to my class and it has made the process of learning so much easier, so I encourage you to give it a try. Try saying "FANTASTIC" any time someone asks you how you are doing and be sure to smile. After a few times you will likely find yourself with a boost of energy which leads to more enthusiasm. Before long, you'll have created an environment that makes learning easier and your job much more enjoyable.
Are you still skeptical? It has been twenty five years since I started working in that beverage store and I still come across people who remember me from that place. How many cashiers do you remember? I can remember just one. The old man who would brighten my day with enthusiasm and a smile.