Take CHARGE Day 12: Resonance
Updated: Jan 21, 2020
(To read Day 11, click here. To listen to this post as a podcast, click here.)
Take CHARGE of the Classroom
In their book Click, the Brafman brothers talk about five accelerators for clicking, or having immediate, deep, and meaningful connection with another person or the world around us. One of those accelerators is very applicable for educators: resonance.
Most teachers have felt resonance before, sometimes more than once. It's the perfect lesson. Everything goes according to plan, the students are highly engaged, and you can see the light bulbs going off all over the room. You feel open and alive, sure of yourself and your purpose in this world. All things seem possible and you feel powerful and unconquerable. You resonate with your classroom and those within it.
Resonance is an overwhelming sense of connection to our environment that deepens the quality of our interactions. As educators, our classroom is our second home. It is where the magic happens on a daily basis. If we can intentionally create resonance within our classrooms, we can draw the students in and connect with them at a deep level. Connections and misbehavior have an inverse relationship. As one goes up, the other goes down. When teachers resonate with their classrooms, their confidence increases exponentially.
Resonance, according to the Brafman brothers, is the product of flow plus presence. Briefly, flow comes from a high level of mastery and a challenge. As teachers increase their craft, they can enter flow more easily. Things come naturally and they find themselves using the lesson plan less and less while riffing and going with moment more often. Mastery needs a challenge, which education provides in spades. No matter how much a teacher might know, working with students will always be challenging.
Gaining instructional mastery has already been discussed in the terms of preparation (Day 5 and Day 11). The resonance that comes from flow (mastery + challenge) is contagious. When teachers are truly alive in the classroom, the students are more likely to enter that state as well. Yet flow is just one part of resonance. The other part of the equation is presence. Teachers enter resonance by consciously making themselves more present with their students. There are four parts to presence.
It may seem counter-intuitive, but the first step in finding resonance is showing up. Not just being physically present, but being purposeful with your attention and intention. When people bring their whole beings to bear on an environment, the effect is almost palpable. The air is charged and the possibilities seem endless.
Yet too often teachers aren't fully there in their classrooms. They are dealing with family matters, worried about their upcoming principal walkthrough, or wondering what they're going to eat for dinner that night. When teachers are in their classrooms, they need to be fully present. If they consciously choose to put distractions on hold until their planning period or lunch time, if they bring their entire force of will to bear on their environment, they'll be unstoppable.
More than simply being mentally present, teachers should also take stock of their availability. The definition of mutuality is the sharing of a feeling, action, or relationship between two or more parties. There's a large difference between walking into a classroom that is closed and distant and walking into one that is open and inviting. Presence is not something done individually. To find presence, there must be a sharing of elements between both teachers and students.
The best teachers don't teach subjects. They aren't math teachers, history teachers, or AP biology teachers. Instead, they teach students. They understand that instruction is a two-way street, a give-and-take between the students and the teacher. They might teach the same lesson over four different periods but each one is slightly different. They tweak each delivery to meet the unique needs of those students. To resonate, teachers should always remember that instruction is a partnership between them and their students.
Students don't want to connect with just anyone. There's a reason that substitute teachers have such a hard time filling in for teachers. Even though they are adults and have the same capabilities as the teachers they temporarily replace, they aren't them. Students innately desire to form a connection with their teachers, to build a support relationship that helps them achieve and meet their long-term educational goals. But they can't connect with a cardboard cutout (Day 2).
As frightening as it might be, teachers must be vulnerable to resonate. They must fully enter the arena, not hiding in the stands throwing down worksheets or assigning tests. This is scary because it leaves them open and exposed. They offer themselves to students with the very real possibility of being rejected. Yet paradoxically, it's this vulnerability, this individuality, that draws students to them. When students experience authenticity, they are drawn to it like moths to a flame.
Finally, resonance takes active involvement. Sometimes students are engaged with a certain activity or content, but more often than not they prefer to engage with the teacher. Most of us have had a teacher or two that we still remember to this day. They captivated us and we felt as if we could sit and listen to them for hours. I'm willing to bet that those teachers resonated often with their classrooms. A large part of that is paying attention to students and giving them their full and undivided attention.
I know that when students are working quietly on independent practice its a convenient time to get caught up on grading or entering scores into the grade book.
Don't. Resist the temptation.
Many teachers are too often like the much derided younger generations that are believed to be constantly on their phones. I've seen groups of friends or even families out to eat at a restaurant and every single person is on his or her phone, ignoring the people around them. When teachers aren't fully attentive in the classroom, they miss opportunities to connect with students with simple chit-chat and social conversations.
In summary, confidence is an assortment of many little things that coalesce into a sense of resonance in the classroom. Rather than simply crossing their fingers and hoping that it happens on its own, teachers can take an active part in instigating the magic themselves. Just like they lesson plan for instructional targets each week, teachers can also intentionally design moments of resonance.
Action: Take a moment the next time you are in your classroom alone and connect with it. Get comfortable with it and do whatever you need to do to make it your home away from home. It is your stage, your instructional trauma center, and your social hub all rolled into one. Own it.
Reflection questions: How intentional are you about showing up for your students? Do you see yourself more as a teacher of a subject or a teacher of students? How vulnerable are you with your students and how do you think that affects your connection to them? How attentive are you to them during class time?
Brafman, O., & Brafman, R. (2010). Click: the magic of instant connections. New York: Broadway Books.
To read Day 13, click here.