Teaching a class must be one of the most challenging things to do.
The responsibilities are immense, yet the rewards, while sometimes buried deep, are endless.
Teachers are asked to:
- know every child – their learning needs; social connections (and lack thereof) , family background; likes and dislikes; hopes and dreams
- cater to needs of every child – differentiate, individualise, include, provoke thinking … allow time (just the right amount), group children with purpose . Provide rich, valuable resources without dishing out answers
- provide a stimulating, motivating environment in which children are given agency and choice, but where there is a sense of decorum to allow listening, communication and learning to grow
- use assessments and data in a meaningful way – track growth; use of variety of meaningful assessment tools; document learning
- communicate – with school heads; colleagues; parents; children
- be informed – know the world; know the curriculum; know the content and skills. Where has each child come from? Where are they going to?
- be mindful when offering praise – sometimes praising one child is interpreted by others that they are not good enough.Allow children to decide when their ideas are valuable and ask questions to get them to evaluate and reflect on what they have done and think of ways in which they might improve.
How is this possible? How can one person do all of this effectively and efficiently?
My list of survival and success tools, gathered over many years and by interacting with incredible educators looks something like this:
- Stay in the loop – know what your children are talking about and bring the world to them. Share real world events and help learners make connections.
- Laugh when you need to. Cry when you need to. Have people around you who will listen when you moan, will laugh with you and who will ask “the right questions” and tell you to ask them too. Ensure that your learners, their parents and your school heads know that you are human
- One rule for all children does not work – using global punishment or rewards for a whole class alienates children from each other and the punisher and is something that is very hard to stop. When do individuals learn to make effective choices and take responsibility for their actions if whole classes are rewarded and punished for the actions of individuals?
- Have access to resources – printed; online; people and things
- Use a calendar that has alerts – there is way too much to remember. Technology is our friend.
- Take photos to remember and document learning.
- Let the children do the “heavy lifting“. Teachers plant seeds of thoughts and help learners find their own – children need to grow and develop ideas in ways that work for them
- Put the decision making onto the children and allow them to reflect on the effects. Make reflection a regular and expected part of learning.
- Be flexible. Schools are dynamic places. Be willing to change plans and ideas as learners and school needs evolve.
What would you add to this survival kit?