Surely you are going through series of emotions preparing yourselves for the next week. I have always felt that the start of an academic year is more or less like a launch of a space rocket where everyone is nervous but excited in that instance where we hold our breath to see how successful this year’s flight is going to be. Being a teacher for 15 years have certainly helped me learn few things about getting prepared and be ready for what we call ‘a fresh start with old routines’, but when my 11 year old daughter made a remark that ‘you look a bit cranky for a Sunday’ I thought it might be a good idea to share my thoughts in this blog.
Years ago I listened to Steve Jobs’s famous and inspirational ‘No big deal. Just three stories’ speech he did at Stanford University. As a young teacher I found it fascinating as he went through key aspects of his life and turned them into a life changing lessons for his listeners. One of the messages in his speech was where Mr Jobs shares an intimate practice that he does in front of his mirror where he asks the question, “If today was the last day of my life would I want to do what I am about to do today?”
Most of his listeners, including myself were inspired and intuitively moved with his words. Perhaps even practiced this technique on themselves in search of success. However what I would like to remind you is that as educators we must remember that there is always tomorrow to make things better. Teaching is a practice which is an ongoing and probably a very long process. Things would go wrong if you are consistently measuring yourself with the attributes of others. With infinite factors affecting your each class and lesson in the first few weeks, your chances to achieve ‘perfection’ (however you have decided to define it) are remarkably miniscule. So please remember to observe your every day and take some time after each day to see what went wrong and where is the issue. Give yourselves time to know your students, understand their learning styles and be flexible in adapting your plans accordingly.
Pulitzer Prize winner and well known author and philosopher Will Durant said that “Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance”. At the age of 80 in his interview to Time he said, “Sixty years ago I knew everything, now I know nothing. The more I know, the more I know that I don’t know.”
One of the key people who play important role in life of a teacher are the leaders, middle and senior level. Where it could be frustrating and sometimes deeply offensive when your line manager walks in your classroom with their pedagogical microscope to analyse each and every strategic or standard procedures and provides you with feedback or criticism, try to remember that the most important aspect of that conversation is students. There was a time when any criticism I received offended me to the extent that either I used to plan about leaving or cut myself away from departmental or school social circles. The above quote from Will Durant gave me a perspective and a mindset that it is about consistent growth as a teacher. My line manager is doing their role which is to provide support, be and hold accountable for departmental targets and procedures. It is only when I started seeing myself as a learner that offensive criticism transformed into constructive feedback. I can’t have fixed mindset and train my students to practice a positive growth mindset. This attitude created a new energy in my teaching where I learnt different disciplines and pedagogical approaches. This also opened my mind towards having a flexible approach as per the needs of my students.
“Education makes a people easy to lead, but difficult to drive; easy to govern but impossible to enslave.” In his speech to the House of Commons Lord Brougham commits to the reforms he was introducing. This quote reflects his intelligent argument towards lack of education resulting in violence.
We must remember this message in the classroom when we are interacting with our students. Teaching is a human endeavour where it is very tempting to move away from a subjective approach. We may want our students to do a number of set tasks and planned activities but we must consider the fact that in the first few weeks of an academic year our students perhaps are going through similar levels of anxiety as well. Take some time to settle with them. Giving them respect would create a harmonious culture in your classroom. You want them to follow your rules but as the above quote suggests that you may be able to govern them but don’t expect them to act like slaves. They will follow you as their leader and listen to you only if they see the mutual respect. Listening to their ideas is equally important as implementing your strategies for better outcomes. Nothing is better than empowering your students with voice of opinion and freedom to speak up to display their wisdom and intelligence.
The last quote I would like to share in this blog is by a Latin Physician by the name of Hippocrates.
“The life is so short; the craft is so long to learn.”
Ancient civilisations such as Greek and Hindu cultures considered educators higher than parents for a child because parents give life but educators teach art of living well. This is a craft that takes life time and we as educators must keep that in mind. Our planning and preparation will play a key role but it is our attitude and mindset that will decide how strong we get in this year. My journey is all that matters at the moment. I don’t want to think about destination.