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”?
Over the last few years, I have seen amazing teachers get dragged down and raked over the coals for “not sharing what they do”. This accusation is often made as a way of labeling a teacher as “uncollaborative” – a really serious crime in modern schools, it seems.
“I just don’t know what she’s doing… I wish she would share” they say.
And yet, it is often more about the person making the accusation than the accused.
By saying you don’t know what they are doing, you are basically admitting that you have made zero effort to be curious enough to find out! Weird.
But then, it does make me wonder about that sense of entitlement many teachers have… and a tendency to operate from a transactional perspective rather than a transformational one. How many times do you hear things like:
- “I would do more inquiry if my students were more curious”
- “I would use maths manipulatives if the school ordered more”
- “I would do play-based learning if we had more time”
- “I would take my students out there if there was more equipment”
- “I would do that if you show me exactly what to do”
“I would know all the wonderful things that teacher is doing if they shared them with me”
There is one, very quick, very easy and very powerful way to find out what people are doing. Go and take a look. Walk in the door. Speak to the kids. Listen in. Take some photos.
Its not threatening – it is flattering.
Let’s face it, most of the best teachers we know are not 100% sure what they’re going to be doing with their students until they are doing it. Also, most of those teachers do share their ideas with us during planning sessions… but other people often just don’t get it until they see it.
The best way to share is to show, not tell. The best way to have something shared with you… is to go and take a look for yourself.
Whose classroom are you going into today???