Kids get icons in their face every day on tv and the internet. My kids must see Spongebob in their sleep since their tv watching time seems to consist mostly of him. When they heard the song or see the icon on a fast food cup, they are dialed in waiting to take part. It’s trust built over time. Teachers have some of that power and we can use it to our advantage. Why not fill their heads with some different ones, with valuable meaning? On my desk I have a carved buffalo statue. My students walk by me every day and see it. I share with them the buffalo is a sign of gentle strength for me. Sometimes I will refer to him in my teaching, pointing out the characteristics that I admire. I even go so far as to name my student’s “Riley’s Buffaloes.” They know it’s my favorite animal, an icon is on my desk, and we identify with the buffalo by making him our mascot. In this way, I have an unwritten connection with my students. I have even developed a quick line drawing I put on the board and on their papers when I grade highly.
It’s the “stamp of Midas.” There is a power in icons visible and emphasized in class. I’ve even been looking for a buffalo puppet. I still remember icons on the wall of my childhood classrooms. One was a cat and dog together that read “Be Kind.” What a powerful icon that it stays with me even now at 45 years of age. Besides that, what a great message! That brings up my second point, to drive an icon home, you must have a worthy meaning assigned to it. As a student of linguistics in college I learned a lot about the sign and the signified. It could be a sports banner of your favorite team that gets kids to rally around your lesson. It could be a figurine or a poster. It really doesn’t matter as long as it has value to you. Kids will sense it and soak it up like a sponge. If you can tie the icon into your teaching you’ll find the power is quite noticeable, even at the beginning. The next time you are vacationing or at a sporting event, think about an acon you could add to your classroom to attach meaning to. The greatest meaning is a thirst for learning.