The Teacher Diaries- Taking teaching too literally

“Once upon a time I decided to teach,

 Dreams of gifting wisdom to every and each,

 It was only once I had given it time,

 That I realized it wasn’t me but the students who shine.”

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The problem

During my early days of teaching, I would charge into the classroom with all the vigour I could muster, committed to impart wisdom to budding minds. While this approach feels appropriate for an educator- filling empty vessels with wisdom and maturity, it does not necessarily reflect how lessons genuinely work. It was approximately a year into teaching when I grasped that while we set out to ‘teach’ young ones all about the world, we forget the aspect of ‘learning’ and how that entire cognitive process ensues.

I had assigned a language comprehension task to my students where they had to read a passage and answer questions, and I stared in disbelief at one of the answers before me.

While I was confident that I had been as clear as I could be in my instructions, lo and behold- a child had interpreted the question with his individuality. I cackled to myself at either the child’s ingenuity or perhaps lack of understanding, and it appeared to me that either I had not been clear enough with my directives or missed something fundamental about the teaching and learning process. You cannot take yourself too literally in this profession; otherwise, the children will be right there to put you in your place. 

Go deeper than face value!

Taking a classroom and the learners within it at face value would detract from the ebb and flow of ideas and feelings buried beneath the exterior. We cannot possibly teach without building relationships. My most special days teaching my students have been the ones where we have gotten into the nitty-gritty of what makes us tick as a group. These shared memories will never leave me and have made me a better teacher. This sometimes involved veering away from the curriculum, getting to know each other better and asking/answering questions that stoked student curiosity.

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We cannot conceivably take the term ‘teaching’ too seriously. Every new study to do with education promotes students to learn independently, for us to move away from teaching and reach towards facilitation. The word ‘teaching’ now has changed connotations and we must take heed.

How do we go deeper?

The student sample work above proved a few fundamentals of teaching to me-

  • If we do not teach our students to think independently, they will blindly follow instructions all their lives.
  • There is no learning without inquiry.
  • If you teach on the surface, students will only touch the tip of the iceberg. They will not learn to question if they are fed the answers.
  • Even if you provide students a closed question, some will find a way to disrupt the walls around it- so you may as well give them opportunities to explore.
  • Your students will always surprise you and give you an occasion to doubt yourself.
  • Form relationships where either party can be wrong and admit it openly rather than pretending to know everything!

My prime aha moments in the classroom have been when I have given up my power to hand it over to the learners. Student agency, voice, and choice are commanding agents of change that alter our essential roles as teachers for the better. As adults who are used to doing things in a certain way, we need to get comfortable with disruption—shifting traditional paradigms towards models that encourage higher vertical thinking rather than lateral regurgitation of curricula facts. Whenever we begin to take a learning intention or success criteria, we must remember not to take the process too earnestly. Instead, let the pathway of discovery meander wherever it needs to, leading to unexpected discoveries and revelations at every turn. 

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Not taking yourself too seriously as a teacher runs parallel to navigating day-to-day life. Allowing another person to show us the way, accepting differing opinions, and allowing change to take us over- these inspire us to be grounded. Classrooms model relationships in real-life

The teaching profession has a particular uniqueness to it as every day is distinct. Challenges of today may seem trivial tomorrow, while tasks that are meant to be easy may pose complications. The day that I stopped taking myself so literally and seriously was when I became a more relaxed and focused teacher. I converged on student-oriented goals and allowed a sense of humility to enter my approaches to teaching and learning. It was undoubtedly the best decision I have ever made in my career.

“Fraught with change is the teaching profession,

 It is not easy-that is my confession,

 Look within to laugh and learn,

 Only then will the rewards truly be earned.”

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