Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Lost the Joy

boa In Squeezing the joy out of a thing , the author asks,

Have you ever gone and accidentally squeezed the joy out of something your students were enjoying doing by making it a way too learning oriented task instead of a simple life-experiential language experience?  Ever brought something into the classroom which completely bombed because it was your passion, not your learners”

This made me stop and think. I’m not sure if I’ve done it to others but I sure have had this happen to me so I know exactly what it feels like.

I remember wanting to learn how to knit when I was little and my mother showing me. She was very rigid about all the “rules” that I had to follow. I had to hold the needles a certain way. I had to hold the yarn a certain way. If I made mistakes, I had to rip it out and start all over. I never was able to finish anything because I was so frustrated by that time that I just hated it all! I never did learn to knit while my mother was alive.

Then I taught myself to knit. I watched youtube videos and still made lots of mistakes. I found an online support system which I felt I controlled by choosing what I read, what advice I followed, and what I ignored. I joined a weekly knitting group that is full of people who encouraged and helped me. I started to finish projects even though there were mistakes. But I learned from my mistakes and started to get better at knitting. With each finished project, I gained confidence to try something new, something harder, or something different. I knew there were people out there willing to help me if I needed it. I knew there were people out there that didn’t care if I made any mistakes.

I loved my mother but that was definitely not the way to inspire and motivate me to learn knitting.

I hope when I am teaching my students that I can encourage them to finish a project. I want them to see the mistakes they made and learn from them but not discourage them so much that they do not want to learn.

I have had students learn a skill in another class but not understand it. When they asked me for help, I would explain it the best way that I could. Sometimes this really helped the student and they immediately understood what the other teacher was trying to get across. Then they asked why the other teacher couldn’t have explained it so easily to them. That is an opening for a great teaching moment. Students need to learn that just like all students learn differently, all teachers teach differently. One teaching style doesn’t make one style better than the other. What does make the difference is how the student reacts to that learning style.

As I mentioned earlier, my mother was not able to teach me to knit. Yet, she was able to teach my older sister how to knit, crochet, and sew. My sister can practically do anything that my mother taught her and even more. Her success with the things that my mother taught her encouraged her to learn more. I, in turn, have always been very cautious and leery about learning anything that is somewhat connected to what my mother tried to teach me.

So, my mother was not a bad teacher. I just had a different learning style than my sister.

This also happens in the classroom. I do not want to be the one to take the joy of learning away from my students. I need to make sure that my teaching style does not totally conflict with the student’s learning style. And I don’t think it is the student’s job to change their learning style but it is the teacher’s job to find the teaching style that will help the student be successful.

So, have you ever squeezed the joy out of learning for someone? Or has someone done this to you? If so, please share your story with me!

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'Anaconda y boa constrictor' by: Pierre Pouliquin

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