Teaching by learning

I want to teach, not what I know, but what I don’t know; not that I can do, but that to which I aspire.

The fundamental thing in teaching is to be involved in doing and learning the subject that one tackles in a classroom. If one genuinely wishes to know oneself, if one is ready to listen and to learn: of one can communicate one’s energy and enthusiasm, the classroom changes; all the issues of power, control and grades disappear.

What actually happens has to be put within a structure that is clearly articulated; the rules of the game that must be respected – what is a foul and what will get you sent of. These structures can change depending the age and context of the class, but they must exist. My classes start at 8.30; my older students are always there long in advance and begin without me. The younger ones tended to trickle in at 8.35 and had to be chivvied into action. I had to be militant and insistent to change the habit.

I have students that won’t play the game and twice I have been through the situation where I have said: “Ok, this doesn’t motivate you – show me what does. Write your own brief, fix your aims and the deadlines and do something that proves that I should take you seriously”. But I have the ultimate sanction that I can ask them to leave if they don’t work (always with the proviso that they can come back when they can prove that they want to learn). I have someone in my class this year who left and came back – its like having a totally different person.

Should we even try to teach where there is no motivation? Is it possible?
If I was stuck with students I could not send away and who didn’t want to learn, I don’t know what I would do. Caught in a game of will and power, I don’t have the magnetic personality to carry them forward.

Perhaps the school experience for many is about the developing the emotional and psychological tools to deal with a boring job, limited expectations and a system of power over which they have no control.

You cannot learn if you have no sense of self-worth and belief in your capacity to achieve. Perhaps everything begins here?

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