Sean Nash said on Twitter:
But only when my professional life hit a point where I was empowered to really innovate and create new experiences for students did I shift into overdrive in many ways.
When I was in primary school, I always hated tracing. Tracing meant laboriously following someone else’s lines, and it was was boring. Even following my own lines that I had previously drawn was boring. Soul destroying. I feel the same about prescriptive teaching – handing out worksheets, using someone else’s lessons in parrot fashion, repeating my own lessons – boring. That’s not to say I don’t do the same lesson, I just don’t do it the same way each time.
Susan Carter Morgan said something I can relate to in her blog post:
Using another teacher’s lesson plans does not make things easier! My colleague, Susanne, had taught this course for a number of years. In her organized, inimitable fashion, she handed me (virtually) her daily plans, quizzes, projects,and tests to use. Sounds great, but we teach differently, and I can’t tell you how many times I would be halfway through a lesson, wondering why I was doing it that way and then having to re-group for the next day. Susanne is one of the best, most creative teachers I know. But I should have just created the lessons myself.
Oscar Wilde said, “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken”.
You may not know that my husband is a Russian Orthodox priest. When we were both 26 years old, he was ordained a priest, and I was left trying on masks in order to take up my new position as ‘matushka’ (as the Russians call a priest’s wife). I felt that I was in no way suitable for this new calling , so I started to emulate some of the other matushki. Of course, I don’t have to tell you, this plan failed miserably, and I was forced to return to myself. Only then could I function sincerely and convincingly, warts and all.
The same goes for teaching. When I recently changed careers in a minor way by moving from teacher of English and LOTE to teacher librarianship, being new to the job, I lacked the confidence that years of experience bring, and considered putting on borrowed hats in order to survive job interviews. I’m talking about manner or terminology more than anything else. That definitely didn’t work, because more than anything else, I didn’t even convince myself. Over a fairly short space of time, letting to of preconceived ideas of what a teacher librarian might be like, I’ve connected with what I see as most important for this exciting role.
Today at lunch, chatting with teachers at my school, I explained my switch in roles to teachers who didn’t know me very well. We were joking about the teacher librarians not having to mark work or write reports (me, anyway), and I wondered what they thought I did, up in the library, without the regular face-to-face with classes. I didn’t want to bore them, but I’m often left wondering how I would adequately describe the teacher librarian’s role description, because it actually is quite broad, and depending on the school, it can be open to interpretation. That’s what I love about my job. It allows me to define my own role, to some extent. Unrestrained by adherence to one or two subject areas, a teacher librarian is, in a sense, a purer educator, looking after the learning of students across the curriculum. A teacher librarian inspires connection with ideas and people through literature, teaches information skills (so important all through school and life), and supports best pedagogy.
So, back to my opening quote from Sean. To be empowered to innovate and create new experiences for students means, for me, connecting with my authentic self, my way of doing things, my passion, taking the relevant curriculum and running with it. To make it absorbing for me and therefore the students, it should be a new experience each time. Teachers will know that this happens automatically because the dynamics are different for each class, but it’s good to build on the experience each time and present it in a slightly different way.
Web 2.0 technologies have opened up new ways of opening up and creating new experiences for teachers. Let’s take English teaching, for example. There are many ways to ‘renew’ your lessons by looking at what others have shared online.
I’d like to share some of my favourite networks which are a constant source of inspiration to me.
Langwitches (Silvia Tolisano)
Rhonda Powling (Web 2.0 resources)
Have a look at my Twitter network here.
Flickr (great way to share, discover and use images)
Although long, this is only a selection.
Nobody wants to regurgitate the same lesson again and again. That’s soul-destroying. If you’re inspired by what you’re teaching, then it’s likely to be an inspiring learning experience for students. Regularly connecting with networks of people who are teaching the same subjects is like securing your roots into fertile ground. Combine that with the excitement you feel with all these ideas and resources at your fingertips, you can’t help going into overdrive. You don’t mind (or can’t stop yourself) working after hours, into the night, during your breaks, because there is no longer just you and your subject material, there is you connected to a limitless number of people, ideas and resources, able to discuss and question, ask for help, co-create resources – you name it. Shifting into overdrive occurs naturally. Watch yourself take off.