School begins this week for many young Australian students while their Teachers are launching into their second official week of “SCHOOL”. This year the staff at my school opted to attend four (4) Student Free Days prior to the commencement of the first school term and participate in another 8 hours of Professional Development activities during the school term. All of this minute counting is a choice we make so that our mid-semester break will last for a full two weeks instead of a mere 7 days. So, while the students are skipping along the path, enthusiastically unpacking their bags full of stationery and waving good bye to their parents, their teachers are frantically trying to find the lesson plan they scratched out somewhere between the morning briefing and the 1 toilet break.
Saying that our four days of Adult Learning was busy, frustrating, exhausting, disappointing and (frankly) unproductive, would be an understatement. I can’t speak for all teachers in Australia. In fact, I have heard from some of my teacher friends that many teachers were provided with time to work and learn collaboratively, discuss student support strategies and even create new resources for their classrooms. However, my colleagues and I were subjected to operational lecture after operational lecture, general and very basic information sessions about teaching strategies (already to familiar to many of us) and a mildly entertaining presentation about the importance of providing appropriate feedback. All of this could have easily been fitted into 5 hours after which we all could have applied our ‘new’ knowledge in a meaningful engagement with the real world situation we are all facing now – planning lessons and actually teaching students!!
I started this post with the intention of telling you all about what I had learned during the past week. I did learn a few things. Unfortunately, I think it is more important for my students to learn quite a lot this semester and I fear that I’m not prepared to facilitate their coming journey!
If you stuck with me this far, you deserve to know what I really learned last week, so here it is in a nutshell.
- The word “but” is the great eraser. Example: “Darling, you are beautiful… but… perhaps you should wear some more flattering clothes.” A much better word… “AND”. Example: “Darling, you are beautiful… and... I would love to give you the money to buy some new clothes.”
- Teachers talk too much! Including me! If I can say it in 5 words, then I should. Using 20 words when 5 will do only wastes everyone’s time and my energy. This is especially true when I am speaking to a group of teenagers who will switch off by the time I get to the sixth word.
- Having high expectations of adults is just as important as having high expectations of children.
- My new classroom is very hot. If you open the windows before 8 am and turn all the fans on, it is bearable.
- People need time to breathe and process what they have heard, learned or experienced. They need opportunities to connect their past experiences and knowledge with new information and experiences. This is true of children, teenagers and adults.
Admittedly, I may have already known some of the above points before last week. My experience last week and the time I have taken to reflect upon it, has highlighted a few things that I need to work on this year. Things I need to do when I’m planning, when I’m teaching and when I’m interacting with my colleagues.
3 habits I’m going to try and develop as a teacher in 2015.
- Use the word “AND” instead of “BUT”… I know this will require some thought which might be difficult AND I will get used to it eventually.
- Talk LESS in my classroom. I will need to think about this too (when I plan, give instructions and reflect on my lessons).
- Allow the people around me (and myself) time to breathe- to connect, process, think – AND relax.
We have a plan for the year… let’s see how that goes.