To really start enjoying teaching I had to stop giving a fig.
I had to stop spending time that I didn’t have, doing things that weren’t enhancing my teaching experience, and worrying that I wasn’t doing things the same as everyone else. I’d like to think that this is a process that leads to innovation. I’d like to think that it is this kind of approach that brings about change. When you have your eyes on a big prize, you don’t want to be distracted. Like, it’s easy to forget that women in NZ haven’t always been able to vote.
To really start enjoying teaching, I needed to start trusting myself. That felt an achievable first step because I had already been teaching for over a decade. Experience does matter. But I also started to listen to the children and trust what they were telling me. I started to give them a voice.
The external demands on teachers are incessant. But I realised that the children needed to be my focus. As much as possible, I tried to ignore all those things that acted as a barrier to me being able to get the best outcomes for the children. Once again, experience helps. I now know really well what a child should be able to achieve and what is developmentally appropriate. Children don’t need to be pushed to do stuff – not if it’s interesting, that is. And now I know that we can expect that great learning takes place in many different ways.
I now have a clear set of guidelines of what an innovative, vibrant, compassionate learning culture looks and feels like. I created these guidelines based on widely available research. The ‘provoke, listen, respond’ feedback loop is great because it provides an ongoing validation process of the research and of the teaching and learning that is going on in the classroom. It’s an organic but robust teaching pedagogy. I particularly like it because it is an emotional as well as academic process. After all, we are human – social and emotional creatures.
So actually, it’s not really true that I have stopped giving a fig. I am now just better at discriminating – identifying the things that are important and the things I really care about.
I’d also like for us to be able to discuss the things that, we as individuals, have little control over; the external barriers to learning – such as child poverty. There are plenty of external factors that undermine a teacher’s ability to deliver an effective education programme. Those same factors are likely to be the ones that diminish the ‘joy quotient’ that motivates teachers to turn up to class everyday and try to make a difference.
So, being able to distinguish from those things that we can and can’t control is critical. It’s critical that we don’t allow ourselves to get bogged down or distracted by the things that we can control. The things you shouldn’t give a fig about. By doing that we can start to work towards a consensus on the kind of education we want our children to be getting in the 21st Century. An education that is truly innovative; something that is possibly beyond what is currently on offer.
Ease Education: Teaching at a human scale.