About teaching

When I was in school, I was a rather shy student so wouldn’t say anything in class unless I was being asked to. Even though I knew the answers, I was afraid to speak out and tried to go unnoticed, so while working as a teacher I always try to get the shy students to speak up first and give equal chances to speak to all the students. This is just one of the many things I learned teaching, and I’d like to emphasize the phrase “working as a teacher” because I don’t think I am a teacher. And I don’t think we are what we do. It is true, I am teaching and I work as a teacher, but I have also worked as a tree pruner before, does that mean I am a tree pruner? Technically yes, but just in the literal sense of the word not in the deepest way.

By acknowledging that this world is built around people who are good at  just one thing and can do only one job their whole life, it appears unnatural for a person who has chosen to do a variety of jobs to entitle themselves with a job title in order to inflate their egos and walk further away from the selfless kind nature that is what many of us are aiming to acquire in the long run.

So, yes maybe I made some mistake and did or said something selfish today, but that doesn’t remove the long-term objective from sight, which is to be happy, kind, selfless and peaceful. The objective is always there, and even though we approach it at a slower pace than we wished to, every small step counts, same as with dog training.

We went out to train the dog today and maybe it didn’t go so well, maybe she got distracted, maybe she was tired, maybe something else happened and she didn’t learn, it doesn’t matter the objective is still in sight and we will try again tomorrow.

We went out training today and she only understood the trick once and failed 20 times, that is already a small step towards our objective and it has to be recognized, and she deserves a prize for it, true we didn’t accomplish as much as I wanted us to, but she did it once and she tried to do it the other 19 times. An effort is rewarded even if you fail. We will get it right tomorrow,  or next week, or next month, the trying part is what’s counts.

With being kind is the same. Ok, today I was not so polite or kind to someone because I was having an off day or anything, it doesn’t matter, what counts is that when you came home you acknowledged your mistake and you are taking steps to make it right, that on itself is a small step in the right direction.

Ok, today you didn’t do much you just stayed at home the whole day but at night you went out to the shop said something nice to the cashier and bought some hot drinks for the security guards who work outside in the cold, it took you just 5 minutes and the other 23 hours and 55 minutes you did nothing, well those 5 minutes count as well.

Today we meditated for 5 minutes, we wrote some kind words in an email to someone for another 5 minutes and we made a list of some things we need to improve for another 5 minutes. Those 15 minutes you spent today trying to be better are very small steps towards the main objective, even though the rest of the day was spent in selfish stuff.

it’s true, we still have a long way to go but the objective is clear and that’s what counts.

Anyway, I was going to talk about some of the things I learned working as a teacher.

I mentioned how we teach a dog using a technique called “positive reinforcement” it means acknowledging and rewarding good behavior and ignoring bad ones. It works great with kids as well because they love the attention and praise and they’ll try harder to get it next time. Can’t overdo it though, if you use it too much it would just lose it’s value, like those people who need to call their dogs many times before they come or listen to them because they have been overdoing it from the start.
Alternating the rewards also works great for both dogs and people alike. For dogs, first a snack or small treat, next time an ear scratch, next time a “good girl” and next time a big pet. For kids now a high five, then a “good job” then they get to keep the flashcard or toy animal or anything it is we are teaching at the moment, then a sticker and next time a “great” with a smile.

Next item this is a teaching style called TPR, total physical response, means doing something with our bodies, instead of just sitting on the desk with a book, telling a story while we act the words works really well. Anything from games and songs and dances, it all contributes to keeping the kids engaged and attentive. This works well for about 90% of the kids the other 10% are the shy ones that would rather sit quietly and learn from the book, to get this kind of students engaged we bring them closer to us and pay special attention that they are getting involved or at least trying to and give extra praise for keeping up with the class.

Next item, I always remember that we learned through cooperation not through competition, so using the positive reinforcement technique to encourage good behavior, I would be sure to notice when a student helps another or they work together towards a common goal. I would praise them and then tell the parents later how good they were and how they helped each other, it also goes a long way if you tell the parents how good they were while the student is there.

Next, fighting against the public school concept that we all learn the same way, even if I work for a public school still must adapt to every particular student even if there are 60 in one class, like it’s often the case. I still must recognize that not all the students learn the same way or at the same rhythm, some learn better by speaking up, other from the book, some by drawing, or writing, some learn better by themselves, some in groups, some learn better in the morning, some at night, some learn faster and some slower, some will learn just by listening to you,so we must adapt our methods to each one of them in a specific way.

Next one, acknowledging and accounting for individual student’s personal situations, some may be tired, maybe having some problems at home, or just having an off day like your dog. We are not all feeling great and happy and ready to learn all the time Some of them come to school after enduring 8 or 10 hours in public school, with teachers shouting at them or other students bullying them, and we have to understand them  because we don’t know what they have been through outside the classroom.

Next one, they learn a lot just by looking at you and interacting with you, they will even learn from the way you walk, you speak and handle yourself in every situation, so if you emit positive energy and confidence in your every behavior they will learn from that as well, same as your dog

Always be kind to them in every situation, even if they are rude to you. Reply with kindness and they will feel remorse or regret because they are used to other teachers and family to shout at them and punish them in some way if they do something wrong.

And last but not least what I consider to be the most important thing not just for teaching, but now we are talking about teaching so yes for teaching, would be to be there in the moment. Some teacher may use their phones in class or just go about the lessons automatically because they already did it many times before, but it goes a long way to be aware of the present moment. Making eye contact, making sure that if you are talking to a student or a parent or another teacher they are the most important person in the world for you at that moment. In addressing the class make sure they know you like them and you want to help them and you are there for them and that you will do your best for them to learn what they have to learn. Being honest to them, making sure they are learning well, making sure they are happy and healthy, and showing them you actually care for them will do wonders both for the students, their parents and for yourself in the long run.

Thanks for reading.


[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mwTzGp92M64&w=560&h=315]



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