This quote is remarkably true about the Art of Teaching, in many different ways.
The ability to see and make connections is a crucial ingredient for a genuine modern teacher. It is our ability to see and make connections that enables us to integrate subjects, to make learning inter-connected and to see that learning – in many shapes or forms – exists in every single moment.
In my experience, there are teachers who – regardless of training or qualifications – just have the ability to walk into a classroom and see the relationships and connections that exist between the types of learning going on. For example, they can see how a student’s desire to learn how to cook is also an opportunity for them to develop their ability to read, do measurement and understand scientific principles. They can also see beyond that into the possibilities of writing and publishing cookbooks, publishing recipes online, creating tutorial videos and developing their ability to explain through speaking as well as writing.
There are also teachers who need to see it to get it, who need to be shown… maybe a few times. These teachers may need to rid themselves of their own experiences as a student – some of these are very deeply ingrained – as these may have limited their ability to see connections for some time. They may also need to rid themselves of the things they learned when they were being trained as teachers. Many teachers were, to put it bluntly, trained to be very dull, disconnected educators. Some of them burst out of those shackles as soon as they see what it is truly possible to achieve with students, others may take a little more coaxing – its a bit like the different ways that animals react when released from a cage!
Sadly, there are also teachers who will simply never see the connections that exist between different types of learning and will, therefore, never make those connections for their students. Their teaching will forever remain as isolated lessons and skills. The thing is – these are often lessons that do need to be learned, and skills that do need to be developed. So we have a real dilemma about what to do with these teachers. Do we try and get rid of them? A year with them could, and often does, put a student off learning forever. Or do we treat it as a “year-in-waiting”, a year developing crucial skills that the students will – eventually – begin to see the purpose of later when, if, they are fortunate enough to have some time with someone who helps them make those connections?
Ever heard someone say “we’re not doing Language Arts, we’re doing maths”?
Well, I saw a few things today that break down that sort of compartmentalization and fragmentation. They will seem pretty obvious to most people, but may be news to others!
This photo shows Joanna, an ESL Teacher, doing a maths lesson. This is the first indication that we understand, in our school, that maths is also language, that mathematical literacy is vital and that our students need language support in mathematics just as much as any other area of the curriculum.
Nicky and I had a good laugh when I walked into her classroom – the students were doing Mathletics. Of course, it was pretty clear that the students were also relying on and developing their language skills when doing Mathletics. Their ability to work through the challenges posed by Mathletics calls for increasingly advanced mathematical literacy. Their ability to navigate through the website involves complex “viewing” skills and reading skills.
A lot of teachers emailed me, jokingly, to say “don’t come to my room – we’re doing ISA tests”. So I didn’t! However, my class did the tests too and we had a good chat together about the tests and about what they were looking for. They really liked the fact that the maths parts were really focusing on mathematical literacy and their ability to read, understand and communicate mathematically rather than their ability to do calculations.
So, lots of maths going on today – and that means lots of language too!