Sunday, September 13, 2015

Teaching - First Week Retrospective

Well I just survived the first week back at school which most teachers can testify is more an act of mind altering strategy than conventional pedagogy. On one level its akin to a rebirth on another it screams out for a throttle back of self that after the bliss of the summer is antithesis to the soul.

Students take first weeks seriously and appear to pay more attention to the first quiz than they do to the fourth or fifth test of the course. From both sides of the divide (teacher/student) expectations dominate. Nobody wants to leave a bad impression and this colours the order of business. My priority is to make students feel welcome, establish the ground rules of the course and nurse an excitement on which to build an atmosphere for future learning. With some classes, and I have two this semester, the connection is immediately there. I am not sure if I can quantify what this means but it seems to be a resonance in personality between the teacher and the class’s core group of students. While this resonance undoubtedly helps it can take time to develop and in the odd case might actually fail to emerge.

This does not mean that the student’s fail to learn but it does imply that the process of learning may be more cumbersome and mechanical in its follow through. As a teacher I have learnt to expect this and don’t live under the delusion that my style of teaching can conquer all. Still an immediate resonance is most welcome. Ultimately it translates to an ease of teaching.

Even so with even the best of classes there are individual students who run the risk of being overlooked, and if not given the level of personal attention, may negatively splinter in their grasp of the material from the core group. This is the real challenge of teaching - reaching those students, while keeping your focus on the core group and exceptionalities on the other end. I call this the 'Juggling Act of Teaching'. Take you eye off any of these elements and spheres come crashing downward. No teacher wants that to happen.

Thirteen years of teaching have afforded me the opportunity to develop these multitasking skills and while I have still much to learn I know now that the raw enthusiasm and book smarts which guided me in my early years only serve as a foundation for the real teaching knowledge that evolves with each student taught.
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