Things I feel strongly about (Teaching and Learning)

I believe….

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These words begin many a blog post about teaching beliefs. I had never thought very much about the things I believe about teaching before. Maybe this is because to me, beliefs are stale. They don’t really count. Actions count. My teaching might change from moment to moment depending on what I think will benefit the students most and not always in accordance with overarching “beliefs”.

 

The idea of having strong and unwavering beliefs scares me a little. I think beliefs should be flexible. When I am asked what I believe about something (or if I believe choice A or choice B), I’m afraid that whatever answer I give will stick to me. Am I, after all these years, still not an experienced enough teacher to have formulated any beliefs?

 

There are, at least, many things about learning and teaching that I feel very strongly about (maybe even believe, but in a changeable way). Here’s my list:

 

 

1. Flexibility – Learning to teach in Korea has taught me a lot about flexibility. Administration might change my schedule at the last minute; meetings might pop up; parents might call; students might be unprepared or have needs that need to be addressed before I can use my lesson plan. I have been asked to teach classes that started ten minutes ago – no books, no handouts, no time to prepare. I feel that flexibility to create a lesson plan in your head based on what you see walking into the room and flexibility to throw away the lesson plans you spent so much time on are both important in teaching.

 

2. Organization – That said, the lesson plans should still exist, whether I use them or not. Planning is as important as flexibility. Without the plan, how will I know what I am teaching and, most importantly, why I am teaching it. Without the plan, how will I know what I am changing and why? Another important factor is that the plan makes me look professional. The appearance of a well-organized, color-coded, time-segmented plan is more important in Korea than the content.

 

3. Empathy – Paying attention to the students is one of the most important things teachers can do. After all, they’re why I teach. Empathy might mean I have to throw away a well-planned lesson or spend time outside of class with them. When I think about empathy, I think about learner needs and Maslow’s pyramid. I have to always be aware of the students. How are they feeling? What do they need? When I was a new teacher, I focused on the lesson plan and forced it on the students, but I learned over time that happy students learn better than hungry and tired students. If their basic needs are not met, the lesson will not be successful.

 

4. Technology – With all the new devices available these days, this is a subject I cannot ignore. I think technology can be really useful in the classroom. First of all, it makes the students comfortable. Second of all, I can learn from them how to use it and incorporate it into class activities. That way they feel involved in the planning process. However, I think that teachers need to regulate use of tech somehow. For myself, I regulate it very little. My students are allowed to use it nearly all the time, but I let them know in advance which things (like tests) they will not be allowed to use any technology for. Setting time limits for tasks also limits tech use.

 

5. Class environment – Having a pleasant class environment is important to both teachers and students. The class should be safe and enjoyable. I like my classes to be fun and interactive. The chairs should be movable. The walls should be colorful and display student work. The temperature should be on the cool side of just right. There should be enough light.

 

6. Mood – This is directly related to class environment. Mood is for me and for the students. For me, I have noticed that my own mood affects the class. Especially with younger students, they can catch my mood and it can make or break a class. I try to walk into the room with a good mood and a smile. The students really do respond. As for the students, being aware of their mood is also important. This goes back to empathy. I might have to change or adapt activities to lift the mood or to respond to the dominant mood. Awareness is essential.

 

7. Thinking time – I have experienced in my personal and professional life that having time to think results in students staying on task and doing better group work later. It might also allow the shy students to plan what they want to say or how they want to participate, while not having the time will prevent their participation at all.

 

8. Reflection – Last, but not least, reflection is really important to me. I think reflection relates back to all the other things I feel strongly about. Reflection in the moment helps me identify where my plan for the class is not working and correct. Reflection after the class helps me identify what worked and did not work for that class, that day and what adjustments I need to make.

 

This post was inspired by a #KELTchat from April 15, 2012

 

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  • […] thing that I have come to love about reflective practice is exploring my beliefs. When I first started I remember clearly claiming that I didn’t have any beliefs. To me beliefs were things that I […]

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