Saturday, June 18, 2005

Actions and words hurt.

Powerful teachers Posted by Hello

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?


Anonymous said...

I agree - it is the relationship a teacher creates with each learner that is important, and with it a dedication to empowering every learner above any other consideration. It is all about 'learning power'; and the more you share the more you gain.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Teachers need to learn from their teaching experiences and develop ideas and methods that enable students to be truly engaged in, and in control of their own learning. Along with a strong and active teaching philosophy, the power for original thought, and actual application of principles in daily classroom interaction, separates the best from the rest.

Anonymous said...

I would like to put teachers in the situation of being students in their own school and for them to really experience the boredom and fragmentation that is the lot of too many students.

The beliefs many teachers hold would better suit the factory mentality that the business world has long since left behind.

If schools were businesses they would be out of business!

Bill said...

Our BOT has been trying to improve our focus in lifting our school acheivements. Your comments are so "on the mark", especially the one: “Would you like to be a student in your own class?” I include my thoughts on where we should be going and open myself up for any critical comments.
My five focus areas follow with my thoughts on how each focus area will be appraised or measured:

1. Passionate teachers, with strong classroom management skills and active learning/teaching skills. All staff to have respect for all students and to role model this at all times. A huge lift in skills is needed in this area. Appraised by students and parents and their teaching peers.

2. Engaged students. The students need to get immediate feedback on their learning (especially in their NCEA assessments and they need to be able to redo the assessments they miss in the appropriate timespan.) This focus area Appraised or measured by internal and external results, asTLe, STAR, NCEA ....whatever criteria is judged best.

3. Community support and extra-curricular activities. Appraised by the level of interaction between the community and the school. Could also be appraised by the increased cultural, dramatic and sporting activities that students are involved in.

4. Hard-working, effective, efficient management and LAC's. There needs to be co-ordination and co-operation between curriculum strands so that each learning area re-inforces the common knowledge of all students. This group of senior managers to be appraised by staff and Principal.

5. A focused Board of Trustees who appraise the Principal and are in turn appraised by self-review and ERO.

Bruce said...

I appreciated your comments Bill.

Students and their parents' 'voices' need to be valued as part of any School Review.

Engaged students are best assessed by them being able to demonstrate, perform, or show, what they can do. I have little faith in outside testing; it 'eats up' too much time and, as well, devalues teacher judgement.

The same applies to community support - what you see is what they have done.

As for curriculum strands just undertake a range of 'rich, real and relevant' studies to give your students an opportunity to explore a range of ideas. To cover your butt just cross-check at the end of each year to see if most of the strands have been covered; those you missed include the following year.

I think a school also needs an outside 'critical friend' to evaluate the performance of the school otherwise it can get a bit self congratulatory. ERO are OK for getting a warrent of fitness but not much else!