I read the post 10 Questions To Help You Become A Better Teacher This School Year by Terry Heick with interest.
The post grabbed my attention as I often sum up my own ideas in ten points. It has some interesting questions for teachers to consider, but I wonder if the post perpetuates the (mistaken?) idea that we should focus mainly on what we do and how we teach in order to improve as educators. In my opinion, focusing more on learning and less on teaching is a more worthwhile endeavour.
So here’s my take. 10 (other) questions to ask yourself that I think might help you be a better teacher…
1. What do I believe about learning?
How does learning best take place? Do kids learn by listening? By doing? By finding out for themselves? Does everyone learn in different ways? Do I value collaboration? Do some kids need to work alone? Does compliance contribute to learning?
2. Does my practice reflect my beliefs?
Do I provide opportunities for learning to flourish? Are learning experiences in my class aligned with my beliefs? Do I reflect regularly and critically to check if they are? Can someone else observe my classes and give me feedback? What if I asked the kids?
3. How do I shift my focus from what I teach to how they learn?
Is my teaching responsive? Do I constantly change the plans, depending on the learning? Do I step back and listen to the learners? Do I carefully observe and record where learners are at? How do I use my observations to inform teaching and learning?
4. Is the learner at the centre of everything?
Do I know every child’s story? What makes them happy? What do they care deeply about? What bothers them? How they do like to learn? What’s not working for them? How can I help connect the learning to their personal experience?
5. Do my students own their learning?
Do I talk too much? Test too much? Am I always in control? Does every conversation need to go through me? Do my learners have choice? How can I encourage them to take responsibility for the learning?
6. How can I ‘make friends with the curriculum’?
(Thanks for the quote, Sam Sherratt). Do I let the demands of curriculum get the better of me? Am I always trying to fit things in and tick things off? Can I become really familiar with the curriculum so that it’s woven through the learning experiences? How can I make trans-disciplinary connections? Am I ready to jump in with ‘just in time’ teaching?
7. How do I encourage creativity?
Can I stop playing ‘guess what’s in my head’? Do I encourage divergent thinking? How can I help my learners seek worthwhile problems to solve, rather than just the ones I set? How can I incorporate the arts into the learning? Is imagination as important as information?
8. How can I ensure the learning space promotes learning?
Did I get rid of rows facing the front years ago? Are the tables arranged for collaboration? Do we even need all the tables? Can we change the room around, depending on the learning needs? Do we need all the ‘stuff’ that clutters the room? What makes the learners comfortable? Will some colourful cushions change the feel of the learning? Can calming music affect the mood?
9. How can I ensure I am a learner first?
Am I a connected educator? Have I built a global PLN (professional learning network) using social media? Have I been to a Teachmeet or an Edcamp? Am I constantly reading and thinking about learning? Do I create my own learning opportunities? Or do I expect PD to be done to me?
10. How can I contribute to a culture of learning?
Am I a continual learner? Do I talk about my learning? Am I open to new ways of thinking? Am I ready to learn from my colleagues and my students? Do I willingly share my ideas? Do I bring solutions and suggestions rather than problems and complaints?
OK, so there are actually more than fifty questions, if you don’t just count the headings…
Who said becoming a better teacher was easy?