Advice for Teaching

I've been thinking and reading about teaching, here's some digested thoughts. A short version and a long version, both subject to future amendments.

This comes as result of reading 'The Slow Professor' by Maggie Berg and Barbara K Seeber, and doing some research on the DIY scheme by the Live Art Development Agency. So what follows is a first draft summation of thoughts and practices found in both that resonance with my own teaching experience over the past 20 years.

The short version:

Advice for Teaching:

1: Go somewhere special to teach.

2: All classes are mixed ability classes.

3: Teach less, in more depth.

4: Let students find you at the right time.

5: Find something to get absorbed in.

6: Take a moment to absorb it.

7: Forget/Remember the outside world.

8: Sometimes it’s learning something new; Sometimes it’s knowing something better.

9: Are you looking after yourself?

10: You won’t teach thing you think you intend to, you’ll teach something else.

11: Learn together.

12: Be there.

 

The long version:

 

Advice for Teaching: 

1: Go somewhere special to teach.

Make the classroom somewhere special. Comfortable and exciting, familiar and strange.

That or go out.

Go to the places where you have good conversations, go where you feel good about yourself, or go where the subject you are teaching matters, go somewhere that inspires.

2: All classes are mixed ability classes.

Each student are good at some things and better at others, they have mixed abilities at the same things. You, yes you, are mixed ability. Tell your students this, tell them how you have improved, how they can improve, and how you all need to depend on each other. Benefit from what you are good at, and be forgiving of what you are not.

3: Teach less, in more depth.

No one knows everything, no one needs to know everything, trying to do that will just mean you teach a lot of stuff badly. Be selective, teach the really important stuff so that it really counts and can be applied elsewhere.

4: Let students find you at the right time.

Two completely different thoughts in one statement.

Set boundaries: Students can find you at certain times and at certain places, make them clear and stick to them. That way you will be ready to give help when they need it, not rushed/distracted/forgetful.

Set and check your expectations: One session they will understand everything, one session they won't, sometimes they'll be interested, sometimes the same session will bore the class to tears. Each class is different, and they will draw different things from you. 

5: Find something to get absorbed in.

Some of the best learning is done when fully engaged in a task. So plan for tasks, give them time and space, give them a soundtrack, let your students get stuck in, if it's working, leave them to it.

6: Take a moment to absorb it.

Take breaks, everyone needs them. You will usually have no idea if your student has slept, just come from work, just had an argument, not eaten, doesn't understand, or just has a short attention span (don't be scornful of short attention spans, yours is shorter than you realise). Regular short breaks have been proven to increase learning.

7: Forget/Remember the outside world.

Turn off your devices. Lay down your burdens. Don't be distracted by the conversation you had before class. The class is a brief opportunity to get away, and focus on something you love.

Apply what you are covering to the world outside, make it relevant either to the big things or the little things. Connect, connect, connect.

8: Sometimes it’s learning something new; Sometimes it’s knowing something better.

Put the current, cutting edge and up to date in your classes. Yet, In any given class the students may think they already know what you are covering, you may think you already know what you are covering. But learning isn't always discovering the new, sometimes it's about developing a deeper, more complex understanding.

9: Are you looking after yourself?

Are you fit, healthy, rested, fed? Self-care is underrated. 

10: You won’t teach thing you think you intend to, you’ll teach something else.

Your students will not take the same things from the class at you expect. That's ok, as long as they take something, ask them what it was.

Let your plan slide when you hit something interesting or unexpected, follow your instincts.  Classes are more exciting, when off the beaten track.

11: Learn together.

You don't know everything, your students know a lot. Be honest about being in the dark. Make your classes a place where you can make discoveries too.

12: Be there.

Don't make it an intellectual exercise; make it a full bodied, emotional, communal, sensorial, political and intellectual act. One where being there make a difference.

 

Thats all. 

Myself, in explanatory mode.

Myself, in explanatory mode.