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Steve Haberlin's picture
Steve Haberlin is a Ph.D candidate at the University of South Florida, where he also works as a teaching assistant, supervising and teaching pre-service teachers. Steve holds a master's degree...
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Relevance--what's in it for me?

Greetings,

What's in it for me? That's a question we all ask when sitting in front of a teacher or speaker or someone who is taking upour time. It is also a question your students ask themselves constantly, and if you can't provide a strong answer, you can bet that you're going to have attention and discipline problems in the classroom.

So much of classroom discipline deals with keeping student in line through incentives, consequences and other techniques. While these topics have some merit, these discussions, in my opinion, fail to address a very crucial component: relevance.

If a teacher cannot connect the lesson to a student's life, they fail to engage them and provide the necessary motivation for that student to listen and respond. Yes, you can jump around, dress in costumes, play music, hand out candy, and work the crowd, but if you can't sell the student on why he or she should be sitting there and working, then I believe you eventually will lose the battle.

So the challege is to find ways to connect students and their world to the curriculum. When teaching math, for example, I talk about how students will use the skills in their future professions. For instance, when teaching about data and reading graphs, I had the children relate this concept to the profession of doctors, lawyers, business owners, scientists and teachers (if they are crazy enough, right?). We talked about how an error in reading data could cost a business owner thousands of dollars, or worse, cost a doctor the life ofa patient.

I also use a classroom system, where my students work jobs and earn money to pay rent. Before getting those jobs, my fifth-grade students must write cover letters and resumes andinterview forpositions. They understand that these are basic skills that all adults will need to earn a living, so they listen and respond.

So next time you get ready to teach a lesson, stop and pretend you are a student sitting in the classroom, and that student is asking"what's in it for me?"