June 29, 2011

Yin and yang

yin-yang 152


Life isn’t particularly well-balanced right now.  Today I taught my “pastoral care” group students about how to resolve conflict.  We sat around the table and I got them to discuss how they argue and they completed a questionnaire about their most dominant styles of resolving conflict.


It is an entirely different environment being a teacher/facilitator of a small group of students who I’ve built up a good relationship with and want to learn, (pastoral care) versus teaching 20+ kids of hugely varying literacy/engagement levels (year 10), versus a group of year 12 students who have so much content to get through that even “fun” stuff is all about cramming in knowledge.


Being a good teacher means being completely adaptable to all these types of situations.  In fact, the permutations on different environments teachers have to do their jobs in is OVERWHELMING. 


At least as a lawyer, no matter what the case, it followed the same steps and I’d argue it was a lot more consistent.  For example, as a project finance lawyer, you always have to negotiate a term sheet.  Then you write up the documentation.  You lodge stuff with ASIC.  Then you have financial close.  It doesn’t matter whether your client is a multi-billion dollar banking syndicate, or a baker.  The step-by-step process is the same. 


As a teacher, it doesn’t appear as straightforward.  Even if you have a water-tight regimented lesson plan, if you can’t think on your feet and adapt, it’s going to be pointless .  Although you are always just “teaching” as a generic term, all these factors affect what is going to happen.


Factors a teacher must take into account when planning/delivering a lesson

Based on my teaching experiences so far, this is what I have learnt about what affects the going-on’s in a classroom. 


[Note: Having just read through this list, any darn consultant worth their money could have come up with this.  But could they have annotated it with my silly anecdotes?  Well… probably.  It’s something I can expand on in the future.]


Student-centric factors

  1. Number of students – small/large group
  2. Sex – male/female
  3. Age/maturity of students
  4. Literacy levels
  5. Socio-economic background and race – this affects how they perceive education (sadly, yes it does)
  6. Engagement levels
  7. Intelligence type – verbal/visual/spatial etc (noting that people have criticised the multiple intelligence model but I think it definitely holds firm)
  8. Relationship with teacher
  9. Attendance – how many classes have students actually attended
  10. Other – eg Is the student worried about their best friend who is worried she might be pregnant and after class have to go with them to get a pregnancy test? Has the student’s family members been involved in any serious offences which could see them received a very harsh sentence, rendering any lesson about “creating a multiple choice questionnaire(!)” trivial, meaningless and boring?  


Environmental factors

  1. Time of day – affects energy levels eg in afternoon usually low energy
  2. Weather – kids go crazy on rainy, muggy days
  3. Duration of lesson (and timing of lesson)
  4. Heating/cooling system – “MISS, IT’S TOO COLD I HAVE TO LIE ON THE GROUND NEXT TO THE HEATER OR I’LL DIE.”  “You need to wear shoes, not thongs, when it is 8 degrees outside.”


School factors

  1. Established polices for behaviour/absenteeism/lateness and availability of other staff to help – eg student managers/well-being team to deal with issues
  2. Technology availability – do the printers work?  Is there a key to get the laptops?  Where is the damn f*%king remote control for the interactive whiteboard?


Teacher factors

  1. Mental health of teacher – how many hours of sleep have you had as a teacher?  Are you still writing a blog at 12.30AM when you have a full day of teaching ahead?  How do you think that’s going to affect your students, huh? 
  2. Physical health
  3. Hunger level – famished/full
  4. Level of expertise/training
  5. Availability of mentoring/support
  6. Motivation level
  7. Burnt out & care factor meter – high/low
  8. Acting level
  9. Compassion/empathy
  10. Level of uptightness versus ability to “go with the flow”
  11. Resilience/grit
  12. Optimism/self-denial level – eg “Wow, that lesson went so well!  You got K to cut out some shapes and put them in an envelope” and that’s all he did for 90 minutes but OK. 

OK I need to go to bed.  Clearly, I am overly excited about this issue and need to develop it a lot further.  I bet some academic has already written about this too!  Of course they have.



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