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Putting Wow! in your Classroom: Teaching as a Performing Art

Many of the great teachers ‘“ from Socrates to the Ron Clark’s of recent years ‘“ have known how to capture and keep an audience.  They have either led with their wisdom or . . . with gimmicks that have worked. While students sat at Socrates’ feet for hours of dialogue, Ron Clark has (and probably still is) jumping up onto desks.  There is nothing mediocre, nothing blasé, nothing forgettable, about either of these individuals or approaches.

And, in fact, many of the giants in history from Shakespeare to Plato, Genghis Khan, Gandi, and Martin Luther King certainly captured the attention of those around them. They were committed to getting their message across.

The Wow! Factor is about communicating, which starts with getting and keeping an audience.  It involves more than the right message and relies on the art and science of knowing how and when to communicate. Not just to deliver a one-way message. But to dialogue. To dialogue, to motivate, to stimulate, to innovate, and to truly listen. To connect somehow at a deeper level. With Wow! it isn’t only the mind that is activated. Wow! activates the heart and some of the most effective conversations teachers have with students are ones that are shared at a heart level. My teaching becomes more important because I believe in connecting with my students — Whatever it takes. Whatever it takes so they know I am with them, for them, of them. I am them and they are me. My students become my teachers.

So to be effective, speak from your heart, not just your head. And make sure your audience knows you believe it is critical to connect.

To connect, there are myriad of ways to get and keep attention. One could clown around, dance a dance, do magic tricks, dress in the costume of the era, teach with a flair for the dramatic, or do acrobatics. One could play music, sing, create art, whisper, or shout from the rooftops.  It is the 7 year old opera singer that creates a wow! So doing something incredibly well can create a wow!

Sometimes the content itself is so big that the content drives the wow! It didn’t take many screenshots of the gulf oil spill this year to get our attention. Sometimes it is the aside that makes the wow! — pairing an interesting, but little known fact, with the event works. It wasn’t just someone giving money to New Jersey schools, it was the inventor of Google. Stories and background tidbits may be the factors that deliver the punch and help us remember. When, in the midst of so much knowledge and information, why would anything at school be important? What we took for granted as important 10-20-30 years ago, cannot be assumed to be of the same importance today.

. . . Or it could be technology that delivers the wow! The IPAD. So slim, so trim, so dynamic, so virtual.

It could be the background props, the lighting, the acoustics, the violin playing softly at a distance. It could be we are entertained. It could be that the wow! becomes a gift. That our lesson plans are just a bit more real, more alive; that they are more successful, because we take the time to build in the wow!

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