Saturday, June 18, 2005
Actions and words hurt.
The beliefs we hold as teachers can either limit or magnify students learning in our classes. All too often our beliefs, or assumption about learning, remain at the tacit level and are not available even to ourselves.
It is a really worthwhile activity to spend time with yourself thinking about what it is you believe about education and, more importantly, to consider do your actions match your words in your classroom. Better still, discuss your beliefs with other teachers in your school as part of a process of defining the shared beliefs of the school and then to put into practice the shared actions and behaviors you all agree to implement.
Recent research about Maori student’s views of learning, written up as narratives, would indicate that for this group of students the majority receive negative messages from many of their teachers. If they were seem as ‘clients’ then these schools would be in trouble. It would be worthwhile for all schools to hear from their own students what teacher words and actions help or hinder them; or even for teachers to consider their own experiences of schooling.
Teachers ought to reflect on the learning beliefs that ensure all students can learn; to ensure the natural desire to make meaning and to express idea that is innate in all learners is kept alive. All to often this passion or joy of learning is lost along the way and replaced with behaviors that range from dull compliance to alienation. And to often we turn about and blame the students for their lack of enthusiasm rather than thinking about why such students are disengaged.
The way we relate to students, the words we use, the messages of hope we give are very important. As such they are the real curriculum of our classroom. For learning to occur there needs to be a positive relationship between the learner, the teacher and the content.
So to be conscious of our beliefs is a start. Powerful teachers have powerful repertoire of strategies – or ‘methods that matter’. If you cannot express what your beliefs or strategies are then you may be contributing to the failure of your students – particularly those who came from a different background to yourself.
Our words and actions do count – and sometimes do hurt as the following revision of an old saying expresses:
‘Sticks and stones may break my bones
But words will never hurt me
And this I know was surely true
And truth could not desert me
But now I know it is not so
I’ve changed the latter part
For sticks and stones may break the bones
But words can break the heart
Sticks and stones may break the bones
But leave the spirit whole
But simple words can break the the heart
Or shame one to the soul’
Herb Warren 82
It pays to make your beliefs explicit and more importantly to live up to them in word and deed. Would you like to be a student in your own class?