Teachers! Trust your instincts!

The following journal was written for PIDP 3260 PROFESSIONAL PRACTICE…

In PIDP 3260 Professional Practice, students are directed to read the book “The Skillful Teacher: On Technique, Trust, and Responsiveness in the Classroom” by Stephen D. Brookfield.

In chapter one “Experiencing Learning” Brookfield introduces readers to the fact that teaching can be downright messy when he states:

“…teaching is frequently a gloriously messy pursuit in which shock, contradiction and risk are endemic.”

The student body is diverse; each bringing with them their own learning styles, biases, and positive and negative life and educational experiences. On the opposite side, instructors also bring their individual teaching styles, biases and life experiences to the table and do their best to apply them to traditional class-room based learning environments as well as to new learning platforms such as online-mediated learning.

The result, despite best intentions, can be downright chaos which can lead instructors to doubt their own skills, abilities, and intuition.

While reading chapter one, I felt a roller-coaster of emotions, with the most intense being relief and validation. Relief that my feelings of inadequacy for “not being able to appeal to all learners at all times” is normal. And, validation that all instructors sometimes doubt whether they made the right decision in career path.

My biggest ah-ha moment in this week’s readings came at the end of the chapter when Brookfield tells readers that “You need to recognize the fact that in the contexts in which you work, you are often the expert.”

This statement allows instructors to take charge of the issues they are dealing with, with confidence.

As instructors, it is natural to doubt ourselves. The reason for this lies in the unpredictability of the adult classroom. One day you have a great class where the students are engaged, lively and demonstrating the learning you intended and you feel as if you are on top of the world!

Another day, you or the students may not engage in the material as delivered, for many reasons, and you leave the classroom wondering what happened, what you could have done differently and doubting your effectiveness as a teacher, mentor, or leader in general.

The reality is that we are all impacted by previous experiences and come to the classroom bearing biases, assumptions, and the inevitable stress of life as an adult – student, employee, parent, care-giver, family member, employer, and whatever other roles we play.

As such, instructors cannot take it personally when an adult student is not able to engage in the learning.

Last week I had a disappointing experience where I received a feedback form from a student who indicated that she “strongly disagreed” that I had made myself available for questions and help when needed.

I was shocked and upset by this comment as I feel that I go over and above in making myself available for my students. Students are given my email address and personal cell phone number and encouraged to contact me anytime throughout the course. I arrive in class early and am always the last one to leave. I also offer one-on-one feedback if and when requested.

Brookfield states that “experiencing ego deflating episodes of demoralization is quite normal. Indeed being aware that we regularly face inherently irresolvable dilemmas in our teaching and that we hurt from these, is an important indicator that we are staying awake and remaining critically alert” (Brookfield, p. 6).

Going forward, I will still be disappointed (of course) when a negative review is received as I am human and I care deeply about my role as a facilitator of learning; however, my response will be different.

I now know that is is okay if I do not “connect with” or “reach” all of my students, in every instance. This could be for a variety of reasons, one being that an instructor cannot motivate anyone to learn if they are not open to learning.

I am not a failure because of this.

It’s okay that the lessons I deliver do not engage every student, all the time. In fact, their will be days that I fall flat in my approach, whether I am trying something new or using one of my best, most successful active-learning activities.

Brookfield says that “skillful teaching is whatever helps a student learn.” As an instructor, I will aim to keep track of how students are learning, what is working best and how they may be perceiving my actions and delivery of the material.

I will rely on my experience, as an instructor and as a student, to deal with the problems I face in the classroom. I will do my best to develop a safe environment where students trust me and feel comfortable enough to engage in the learning and reach their personal learning goals, whatever they may be.

References:
Brookfield, S. (2015). The Skillful Teacher On Technique, Trust, and Responsiveness in the Classroom. (3rd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Wiley.

Robin Cook Bondy Page 2of 2

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About robincookbondy

My name is Robin Cook Bondy and I live in Ladner, BC with my husband and three sons. I am a communications and public relations professional pursuing further education in the area of adult learning.
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