I recently met a young teacher who is currently teaching English to Vietnamese students in Hanoi.
We were sitting having a drink on the shores of Westlake and talking about our jobs. She told me about her recent experience with her students while teaching them about fables. They had found them very interesting – perhaps because Vietnamese culture is so full of moral tales and they could connect with them personally and conceptually. She had planned for them to write their own fables once they had developed their own “toolkits” for the features of a fable and, it turned out, they were hoping she would ask them to. In fact, they told her what she wanted them to do for their homework. She had been reading their work the day we met and she was clearly excited about what they had produced. She was experiencing what I am going to call the “teaching tingles” – her body language and a spark in her eyes gave it away!
It made me think about all those times that I have told people about something my students and I have done and that wonderful tingling sensation I get as my emotional connection with them and with my job becomes tangible. These are the moments that we should aim to have as often as possible, taking steps to make our teaching and learning culture create the conditions for students to do wonderful things whenever they can.
It is energizing to be around teachers who want to talk about their students’ potential, possibilities and achievements – those teachers who are excited about the things that can be done. In this type of environment, people come up with great ideas and fresh, innovative approaches.
If it makes us feel this way, imagine how it makes our students feel. Perhaps their answer to that age-old question “what did you do at school today?” will change from “nothing” to… well, who knows what they will say!
What recently gave you the “teaching tingles”?
In all schools it is seen as an essential component to learning, vital in the formative growth of students. Without feedback, how can there be development?
“How do you give feedback to your students?” ask administrators.
And, administrators do their best to give feedback to teachers too… albeit in ways that are far from perfect.
Feedback is crucial.
So, why is it that when teachers painstakingly spend hours preparing CVs, pouring their soul into covering letters and holding their dreams in their fingertips as they press send on that email… their chances of any feedback are non-existent?
Days or weeks waiting, wondering, wishing.
Then, out of the blue… the inbox reveals the clinical phrase “we regret to inform you that your application has been unsuccessful”.
But why? The teachers ask… what is wrong with me? Is my CV crap, is my experience insufficient, was my covering letter poorly worded, am I the wrong type of person?
Well… who knows? And fat chance of fixing any of those issues next time. Learning from the experience? Non-existent.
So, where is the feedback then? Has anyone ever received feedback on their job application?
Recently, I have caught myself boring myself while talking about education.
As a result, I have started to say less in an attempt to stop boring myself. However, I have also found that saying less bores me too.
These are worrying signs that I am on the predictable path many of those who opt for leadership roles in schools find themselves on… the path towards irreversible irrelevance. I am boring because I am not cutting edge anymore. I am not cutting edge anymore because I am not a teacher. Sure, I have my experiences from before, but those become stale and worn the more they are recounted and rehashed. Sure, I have the experiences I gain from spending time in classrooms, but those are gained from teaching vicariously and are not really my stories.
Perhaps boredom is the goal… a form of bliss. But, it’s not working for me.