PRINCIPLES OF KNOWLEDGE & LOVE FOR SUBJECTS
- KNOWLEDGE OF SUBJECT AND CURRICULUM: if we don’t love and know our subject, it is futile to try to teach it. Even if we may have a broad understanding of such subject, teaching it can still deepen our knowledge of it. It is clear that you learn when you teach.
- However, it is also important to know the syllabus and other information on what is required in the official examinations, as well as the technical details of how to teach the subject, because we can then target our knowledge towards the correct way of answering the questions and hence, raise the school’s percentage of success.
- ADAPTABLE / FLEXIBLE / VERSATILE: Very often I have to change my game plan for the lesson. I come with an intention, I tell the class, I even make it known in advance… and then for some reason something happens that day and the energies are not with me; they seem to want to go in another direction.
- When this happens, I have a choice: I either chose to spend a lot of energy trying to force the class to fit into my pre-organised plan… or I flex, adapt my mind and focus to go with the flow of what is happening in that moment. This requires that I have my ear on the ground and that I take what the class is able to give me at that time.
- In these situations, I have learnt not to feel as if I have wasted my time. I get something else done instead of what I had planned ahead, but instead, I negotiate with my students that they do in their own time what I intended to do in the class in the first place or work around it in another way. This means that I compensate for that time, but normally students agree because they feel that there has been a change of priorities for their benefit, and they honour my giving in or flexibility.
- When I am able to do that, there is a shift at some level within the classroom – and these are the times when there seems to be a merging of levels, a harmonization of energies, a levelling among the individuals in the class.
- If I refuse to allow the space for this to happen, I miss an opportunity to consolidate the group, which usually makes future teaching much easier / fluid.
- MOTIVATING / ENERGETIC / ENTHUSIASTIC: I can’t give up on my students. I have to always offer alternatives. I find that I always have to tweak here and there when they are down, when they get lost in the exercises or course material, when they find a task unsurmountable.
- I have to always be there and alert in order to pick up the loose ends and reorganize / redirect the energies and give them advice on how to progress. They count on us for this. We are their direction and their thread.
- I can’t really even have a bad day because they are like sponges: they pick up your mood and if you are down, they are down! So the only option is that I am rested (focused and clear-minded), healthy – feeling of well-being (no headaches or pains in general) well-fed (strong and with energy) and energized (motivated at the beginning of each lesson) so that I can tackle the challenges of each individual hour. Young people have very high energy and they can walk over you like a roller-coaster if you are not a match to them!
- I also need to have enough energy to tell them to be quiet, many times over, when they have a funny, chatty or unsettled day. I have to have enough energy to keep them on track on the subject at hand. I have to have enough energy to read between the lines because sometimes they don’t even know what is wrong with themselves or how they feel. And so on and so forth.
- ACCESSIBLE / AVAILABLE / EMPATHIC / ENERGETICALLY PRESENT: on the same line, I need to be compassionate enough to understand that these people are under a lot of pressure to perform, to come up to expectations, at a time in their lives when they may not know very well who they are.
- They want to be up to scratch and be cool, be popular, keep up with the others… and they may not always be consistent. They have many bad days and they get spaced out easily.
- So I have to fill the gaps in their consciousness and bring them back to the class and to the real world, and still get them to perform, some days more than others… but I make a point of getting something out of them, every day.
- RESPECTFUL / DISCERNING: I find that students are not in the same mood every day and that at certain times they have some problems that they don’t have other times.
- Some young people are more stable than others in general if they have a stable home environment or if, for instance, the mother or an adult is at home with them all the time.
- Others can have all sorts of different issues, which are projected into the classroom in general and the teacher in particular and may come across as a chip on their shoulder… so I have to be myself at all times and avoid these emotional storms and work around their needs / moods / level of awareness – growth at all times.
- I find that if I am consistent, eventually they all get to the same point, the point where I need them to be for optimum learning. This normally takes from 4 – 6 months for a group to become coherent.
- There are always individuals who take longer and disrupt the rhythm of the others in the class, but I believe that every group comes together for a reason and it is my job to get them all from whatever level they start into the 60% – 80% bracket (or above).
- It takes for all my patience, coaching skills, mentoring / tutoring / management and executive skills… and everything else that I learn / pick up on the go for me to get a group to become coherent over this period of time.
- It also takes all my strength, persistence and in general, resolution to get them there for them to see that I do care. I do feel like I am an Army General (or like the Sargent Major, as my husband puts it) for me to stay the course consistently and without exception… I simply can’t get my eye off the ball, ever!!
- But when they make the shift, and they always do, then I simply back off and let them direct their own learning. I then fall back into the back stage and swap my role into that becoming a Supervisor of Learning: they come to me with their work done, they ask me about their Spreadsheet and take responsibility for their work. They come to class on time and are not in a rush to leave. They are no longer disruptive and, all in all, there is a very pleasant atmosphere in the class. Almost an idyllic learning environment!!
- The question here would be for me: how could I get them to shift in 3 months instead of 4 to 6 months!?
By Dr Ana Garcia PhD, DTM.