For years I’ve had a poster on my classroom door that reads “Learn Like A Champion Today.”
Each student taps it on their way in.
To an outsider it may appear to be a silly ritual. Cutesy, perhaps, but of no real consequence.
They would be wrong.
In fact, I believe it to be an important motivational tool.
Granted, by itself, the poster doesn’t mean much. It’s a homemade 12″ x 18″ rectangle of laminated construction paper.
But the act of tapping it, the decision to reach up and give it a rap, is where you’ll find its power.
It’s the meaning behind the action that makes it work.
Tapping the poster is a way of saying yes to you, your program, and the learning environment you’ve created. It’s a physical expression of their commitment before they even enter your classroom.
It also serves as a reminder that hard work, good behavior, and politeness are expected. But you can’t just slap it up on your door and expect it to have an effect.
You must first define its meaning.
You must walk your students outside your classroom during the first week of school and, while modeling how you want them to enter, explain that by tapping the poster they’re agreeing to three things:
1. To give their best.
2. To behave their best.
3. To have a positive attitude.
These aren’t rules, mind you. They’re a set of principles that define the learning culture you want to create. So when a student taps it, they’re in effect buying into that culture.
Further, tapping the poster flips an internal switch, signalling that it’s time for school and that negativity, laziness, immaturity, and the like must be left outside the door.
The result is that they enter your room ready to learn.
Again, it’s the meaning the poster represents that makes this so. It’s the promise and commitment that comes with the decision to tap it that elicits the Pavlovian-like response.
So what happens if they don’t tap it? What if they stroll by without so much as a glance at the poster?
Nothing at all.
Because it must be entirely their choice. If it isn’t, if you force your students to tap it or glare at them when they don’t, then it loses its power. It no longer possesses any meaning.
But here’s the thing: As long as your students enjoy being part of your class (The Classroom Management Secret), it will become a habit they enthusiastically take part in.
You may be thinking, Well, that’s fine and good for some teachers, but the students at my school are too jaded (or too old or too cool).
I haven’t found this to be the case.
In fact, the more challenging the school, the more impactful the strategy.
The idea is a play on a poster the Notre Dame and University of Oklahoma football teams tap on their way out to the field.
And if 85 young men from every conceivable background can buy in, so can your class.
It’s important to note that the poster isn’t a panacea.
On its own, it can’t make or break your classroom. It’s merely a strategy that supports a happy and well-behaved learning environment.
It’s a strategy that helps ensure that each day begins on the right foot, that each day starts with a reminder that entering your classroom comes with responsibility.
That the next 60 minutes, or six hours, matters.
And so do they.
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