How forgetting about ‘the teaching’ helped my students and I learn

New Zealand Graduating Teacher Standard 4.c

“Graduating teachers demonstrate high expectations of all learners, focus on learning and recognise and value diversity”

Graduating teachers focus on the learning. It seems like such a simple idea, you can talk about it, read it but actually doing it? That took me a long time.

For my first assignment for Teaching Diploma, I had to write an essay and draw metaphor around my theories of teaching and learning. I got an A for my discussions around learning theory but my metaphor I only ended up with a B, too much focus on the teaching was the feedback.

Did I take it on?

Nope the marker was being nit picky, it wasn’t my fault.

From there that I went into my first Teaching Experience all pumped up to do a good job of teaching  kids. The problem with this approach is that because I spent so much time thinking about teaching I didn’t do much thinking about the learning. I was student teacher with a plan and I was sticking to it! More importantly because I was so obsessed about being good teacher I was afraid to make to mistakes, take risks and ask questions least I be called out as the imposter I most definitely felt like inside.

I passed my placement with good but not great feedback, I wanted to do better but was at a loss. I was taking on the feedback from my Associate Teacher so was open to the idea of learning but I was also way too focused on teaching. But the more teacher blogs I read and twitter chats I participated in, the more I realized what teachers were really interested in wasn’t teaching it was learning.

When the student is ready the teacher will appear.

In this case my teachers were 25 year 1/2 students and their fabulous teacher who would be Associate for my next teaching placement. I freely admitted when I went in that year 1/2 wasn’t my first choice of age group and I had no idea how to teach these young learners. So I stopped focusing on trying to teach and started thinking about learning.

When I found myself completely overwhelmed at the seemingly frantic pace of the teaching programmes I was undertaking  instead of battling on I took a big breath and sloooowed down, deciding from guidance from my Associate that it was better to do a little bit really well rather than a lot not so well. And then the craziest thing happened, I could manage the programme that was causing me so many problems.

But more than anything what I found from teaching year 1/2 is that they really helped me to listen for the learning.  Because the little snippets that sometimes seemingly come out of nowhere have great such great learning moments attached to them ‘why does my xlyophone have 2 Cs?’ ‘Is that snow?’ ‘Why does the equal sign not mean the ‘same as?’  When I stopped frantically trying to teach and really listened to the students, I found the learning moments I never thought I would see.

But more importantly being focused on the learning took a lot of the pressure off me to be perfect. If I make mistake now I don’t think ‘ZOMG I suck I am the worst student teacher ever.’ I think ‘ok that sucked now how am I going to do it differently next time?’

Because it is not a fail it is a

First

Attempt

In

Learning

I used to think that if a teacher concentrated on good teaching then the learning would automatically follow. Now I think that if you focus on creating the right conditions for learning the good teaching will flow from that.

And now I wonder why that seemingly simple concept, graduating teachers focus on learning, took me eight long months to learn.

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