“I have a surprise for you today!” some teachers announce to their class as we enter the room carrying a cooler containing snakes and a box loaded with reptile biofacts. At that point, we realize that this teacher has not prepared the students for our visit, and they are not as likely to absorb as much from the presentation as if they had some background information.
While we understand that these teachers have the best interests of their students by wanting to break up their day with a special event, we also know from experience that teachers who prepare their class for our arrival have given the students a head start in understanding what they are about to experience.
For classrooms we visit yearly, teachers may verbally prepare students by describing what our program entails. Some refer to our website for preparation, as well as encouraging students to seek out library books on snakes. Teachers like Lisa Townsend and Kathy McGinnis (pictured above) at Palmcroft Elementary in Yuma, Arizona, have observed our program many times, but, rather than grading papers or surfing the Web as some other teachers have done, they still pay attention along with their students. Not only do we appreciate their attention, but their students are more likely to follow their teacher’s example, enriching their learning experience.
“If the teachers pay attention,” the principal of one school told us, “their students will pay attention.”
“Our 3rd grade teachers at Palmcroft NEVER tire of hearing your presentation,” wrote Mrs. Townsend in her email. Such enthusiasm can only generate passion and excitement in their students.
Examples of advance preparation come in many forms. For Kendra Lewis, second grade teacher at Twin Peaks Elementary in Tucson, Arizona, preparation involved research and art. As we entered her classroom, we noticed a wall lined with reports prepared and illustrated by students. Each report focused on a different snake species. Another wall displayed coloring sheets of a snake, each sheet demonstrating the student’s creativity. These students were prepared with answers to our questions, as well as good questions of their own.
“But doesn’t it take away from what you tell them if they already know a bunch of stuff?” someone once asked us.
On the contrary, students who are armed with some background of the subject feel empowered. They readily take part in our program. When we ask a question, hands are raised all over the classroom eager to display or test their knowledge. And because they are equipped in this manner, they are more focused, more prepared to participate, and more eager to expand on what they’ve already learned, which in turn encourages us to delve deeper into the subject.
Our thanks to ALL the wonderful teachers who prepare their students and take part with them in our presentation. Teachers make all the difference!