Thursday, 9 February 2017

Becoming a student...

In the role of teacher, I often forget that learning new skills can be scary for students. I forget that it can be overwhelming to be introduced to new essay-writing styles, quotation integrations, and research methods. The human fear of appearing stupid is strong.

Currently, I am on parental leave, and I have decided to learn how to skate. I am once again the student. Skating is a sport that scares me; terrifies might not be too strong of a word. My first lesson was three weeks ago, and I almost backed out. It would have been easy; my husband accidentally took both sets of car keys to work. It would have been the perfect excuse. I persisted. I finally made it to the arena, and my next opportunity to back out presented itself: I had difficulty getting my skates and helmet on. I persisted. My desire to challenge myself forced me forward, but my skating instructor smoothed the path. She reminded me of all the characteristics I want to embody as a teacher. For example:

  1. She welcomes. She greeted me at the entrance to the ice, and held my arm to guide me to the centre. Right away I felt physically and mentally safe.
  2. She differentiates. Our small class has five skaters, at varying levels. She works with each of us individually to develop skills at our own pace.
  3. She has high expectations. Apparently, I will be skating backwards by the end of my lessons.
  4. She encourages. She lets us know how to improve in a positive manner, and she celebrates our successes, no matter how small.
Essentially, becoming a student has reminded "teacher me" to be sensitive to students' trepidations. For some students, showing up to learn the unfamiliar is a success in itself. I need to welcome, differentiate, set high (but achievable) expectations, encourage, and celebrate...both my students' successes and my own.