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Adapt, Adopt, Adept

16/09/2012

Adapting to your surroundings

This may look like a scientific blog post, but I’m not about to change my blog theme, not overnight anyway. Evolution takes time.

On my previous post, Risky Business, I mentioned how the students responded to a change in the classroom method, or even the methodology. It was rather anecdotal, yes, hence the reason for undertaking the research project. I’m sure the final report will undergo a strict check, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Just getting back to the topic, what about the teachers? What do they do? How do they feel when they’re faced with new teaching methods? How do they adapt? What are the stages of adoption? When do they feel adept?

Teaching is personal. It should be anyway. When my students report a complaint, I often hear “Don’t take it personally – the student just wanted to move up a level.” I can’t help but take it personally. I need to know what went wrong? What did I do wrong? Why was my teaching [insert various adjectives here]?

My point is – you’ve got to know your students and your subject matter well. Then your students will get to know you.

Then amongst this process, the process of getting to know each other, if we throw a couple of new methods, or even tools and resources, it won’t be long before the teacher applies ‘Fight or Flight’ method. Rightly so.

So how do you introduce the new ways? Personally speaking, you don’t. This is something that has to come from within. The initiative comes from the teacher. Similar to the way a student must want to learn, say another language, otherwise it just won’t happen.

Ok, then what? A teacher decides to ‘take a risk’ in the new method, where to from here? What are the support systems? Are they securely in place? Change takes time & effort – it’s never a one-man job. If there isn’t a sufficient number of people backing up the initiative, then its days are numbered.

Perseverance is the key. This proves that it’s not just another phase, that it’s a substantial interest and that the teacher strongly believes in it.

At this point, it may be necessary to identify what ‘it’ is. ‘It’ is simply choosing a different method of teaching or delivering a lesson or a course from its existing/usual way. It could be anything, anything at all. Perhaps taking the students into a kitchen to teach ‘imperatives’ – slice the tomatoes, chop the onions, stir the sauce… (I’ll have to limit my examples to language classroom as I’m not very good at teaching quantum physics!)

If I continue with the above ‘kitchen’ example, well, it probably wouldn’t happen in my language class, since I can’t cook! I don’t particularly enjoy cooking either. I eat when I’m hungry, and if all I have is a 2-min noodle, so be it. In other words, taking my students into a real kitchen would be out of my ‘comfort zone’. I just wouldn’t know where to begin, make a total mess and probably set a few things on fire as well! Not a very good look for a teacher.

Why take a risk then? I’ll leave that one up to you to answer for yourselves. I’d like to carry on from making the decision to take my students into a kitchen. What do I do next? Find a kitchen? Ask a chef to show me how to cook? Buy some vegetables? Have a go at chopping some onions? (I know, they make you cry!) I’d probably need to do all those things before I feel comfortable enough to ‘make a fool of myself’ in front of the students. How long do I need to prepare for the change – 2 weeks, 2 months, 2 semesters? And, here comes the most important part, me thinks, is it all going to be worth it?

This part takes us back to the beginning, that teaching is personal. You’ll need to measure the time and the effort as a teacher, and make a decision. Luckily, you only decide whether it’s yes or no – do I carry on teaching with the method I’m most comfortable with or do I make a change? The choice is yours, which consequently makes the rewards yours too.

Happy teaching 🙂

 

 

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