Experiencing Teaching – a reflection of Brookfield

In chapter 1 of Brookfields “The Skillful Teacher” he discusses the idea of muddling through as teachers.  It is not possible to prepare for every conceivable situation that could come up in the classroom, so on occasion we may need to muddle through.  When teaching learners how to use a system I have what I believe to be clear, step by step instructions to take them through each component.  Some weeks everything runs smoothly and the learner gets it with no further explanation, other weeks I need to provide a few different examples.  What I have learnt is that I can not document everything, I just need to learn to be flexible and adapt to what the learner needs.

I also like to spend sometime at the start of class to get to know learners and understand their background experience.  Some learners have used similar systems in the past, so have a base level of knowledge to start from.  Others have never used a system before and may be straight out of university and not even have any experience in the industry, in which case I know I may need to spend more time explaining terminology.

Learners can also have a different interpretation of things.  I recently played a game called code words, in which the spy master must give a 1 word clue to describe 1-7 picture cards and the others on the team must then guess the cards the spy master is referring too.  I found it to be fascinating how different others interpretation of the clue was and even their interpretation of what the picture on the card was. This is a good lesson to keep in mind when delivering content to learners, as the message you intend to deliver may be different to the one they hear, so it is important to check in with them to confirm their learning.

Brookfield points out that it is not simply luck that can help us through these situations in the classroom, but our collected experience.  The more we deal with uncertain situations the more we learn and can apply next time the situation comes up.  The more I work with learners and see their different needs and what techniques work for them, the more I can identify in new learners how I can best help them.  I also collaborate a lot with my colleagues to see how they interpret course material and what they think would work well. I also consider what sessions I have enjoyed and what made they enjoyable and see how I can apply that to my own course design. I always strive to have a dry run of a new training session to get feedback and make improvements before delivering live to learners.

Overall I would say that as teachers and educators we need to be continually learning ourselves.

Reference

Brookfield, S.D., (2015). The Skillful Teacher: On Technique, Trust, and Responsiveness in the Classroom. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass

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