#EdBlogNZ Challenge WK 1
Think about your teaching practice. How has it evolved over time? What are you currently working on developing in your practice? What tools have you used during this inquiry time? Blog about it!
This is a big question! How long have you got?
Of course my teaching practice has evolved over time, but I think that I always tend towards my preferences and my natural style. That means that over the last 30 years I have responded to new trends, learned from my peers, reflected on my practice and picked and chosen what fits with my basic philosophy about learning. I don’t think I’ve always been honest about the things I’ve found challenging and faced up to them. Have I improved my practice, have I transformed my practice? Have I helped my peers and my students? I hope so.
I love learning when I am passionate about something. When I first started teaching I was so passionate about languages that I found it difficult to understand why 25 of the 30 kids in front of me really couldn’t care less about learning French. They were there because they had to be and some showed a glimmer of interest especially when they could get me to digress and tell stories of when I lived in France rather than learning grammar, and some were blatantly bored. It started to wear me down after a while and I was forced to think outside the box to find ways to motivate, to inspire and to .. yes, make my life easier and more pleasant. After all how many hours a week could I spend in front of bored, resentful, reluctant faces and not get ground down?
I used to hate grammar when I was at school but I found myself teaching the way that I had been taught at secondary school and the way that I had been taught to teach at Uni. It didn’t really work except for the 5 in the class who were as passionate as me.
So, I dug deep and thought about where my passion first came from. Way back as a nine year old my school was part of a pilot scheme for teaching French to Primary School children
. The scheme was ahead of its time. No writing, no reading. Speaking and listening, practice and role play, total immersion and a very passionate, very new and very trendy teacher! Miss Francis (now Larraine Biscombe
) has clearly continued to hone her teaching expertise but it was her passion that got me hooked all those years ago.
Active, problem-solving, task-based learning. I had to fit it in with the expectations of a relatively restrictive National Curriculum and by no means did I suddenly have 30 passionate francophiles in front of me but some of those reluctant learners started to show interest, engage and I started to enjoy teaching again.
Fast forward to NZ 2011 and suddenly I find myself teaching Spanish not French. Not a fluent Spanish speaker, no longer the master of my domain and task-based learning
took on a whole new perspective. When you don’t know everything you have to make a decision;
- Fake it until you make it
- Man up and learn alongside your students
I went for the 2nd option. It had worked with my challenging groups of low ability boys when we explored using computers, video cameras and digital recorders to liven up French lessons in the early 2000s. Plus I am no good at lying and a classroom full of curious, demanding teenagers will soon find you out so honesty is the best policy. We learned together, exploring, finding out, researching, teaching each other. The fact that I was taking a risk to speak in a language in which I was not proficient meant that they were mostly prepared to as well.
So, how does this link to where I am today? At the same time as learning Spanish I was supporting teachers in my school to integrate digital technologies into their teaching programmes. Using technology in the classroom scares a lot of teachers. They are afraid that they don’t know enough and will appear foolish in front of their students. Encouraging them to accept that they don’t have to be experts about everything, that they can admit that they don’t know and be willing to explore alongside their students is huge. As we strove to transform practice and were discussing it over morning tea one day one of my colleagues said of how she felt,
“I feel quite liberated now, much more liberated as a teacher than I did before. That I could walk into a class and I didn’t know everything and the learning still worked, in fact it worked better, being inspired by those experiences, that’s what’s changed the way I teach completely”.
So that’s where I am now. Honing my craft. Listening, speaking, connecting, communicating, failing, risking, challenging myself, improving my practice, aiming for transformation. Learning.