It’s not a race, so slow it down

My teaching philosophies and classroom practices my first year teaching were highly influenced by behaviourism. I began teaching almost ten years ago. I was a French Immersion and English itinerant teacher teaching all subjects across all grade levels. My primary concern, as Ertmer and Newby state when referring to behaviourism, was “how the association between the stimulus and response (was) made, strengthened, and maintained.” Looking back, the learners in my classroom were reactive to the environment that I created. I did not give them enough opportunities to take an active role in their learning. As a beginning  teacher, I felt very pressured to get through the curriculum and to complete formal assessments often. I was the time-keeper-always watching the clock and the instructional minutes. Thinking back, could I have taught that first year any differently? Could I have let go of some of the control I had over just disseminating information and assessing what I received?  I know some students responded well to my style of teaching. Perhaps they were comfortable with “discriminations (recalling facts), generalizations (defining and illustrating concepts), associations (applying explanations), and chaining (automatically performing a specified procedure). To this day, I still use flashcards (discrimination) if I am studying. No one teaching theory can ever be used in isolation due to the diversification of students learning styles in our classrooms. However at some point in my first year, I took on more of a cognitive teaching style.

I think it was a natural progression that I became more concerned with “what students (knew) and how they came to acquire it.”  Explaining my way of thinking didn’t always work. I realized I needed to explain what one student knew and how he came to understand it to other students. I started to focus more on if the students are truly understanding a concept. If yes, we move on, if no, I slow it down and re-teach it in a alternate way. What I can take from my first few years is that teaching is not a race. I learnt to slow every lesson down. I do not feel the same pressure as I did then to get through the curriculum.

With assistance from colleagues who I had the opportunity to team teach with, I can see a shift in my teaching style in recent years. I am a mix of everything; behaviourist, cognitivist and constructionst. I can’t say I ever had just one teaching style, just like I can’t say I have only one learning style, although some styles may be dominate at different points in my career. Hopefully as educators, we are constantly changing. I recognize that I adapt my style based on students needs, the school, the staff and the working conditions.  I anticipate that I will continue to evolve and change throughout my career.  

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Ken Whytock Flickr via Compfight cc

When I think about the big picture of teaching and learning I think Ertmer and Newby  said it perfectly, “the task of translating learning theory into practical applications would be greatly simplified if the learning process were relatively simple and straightforward.” I hope that all partners in the education sector are able to clearly articulate the complexe nature of our student’s learning and our job as educators. I fear that if we are unable to do so, that education will continue to be underfunded and undervalued. Do you feel that educating the public about the complexties of the learning process is necesssary? Could it potentially be more harmful than helpful?

Would bringing more awareness to the complexetities of learning bring more resources to education?

Let me know your thoughts.

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4 thoughts on “It’s not a race, so slow it down

  1. nancyarmstrong says:

    Wow, Launel! You have made some excellent points that really hit home for me. The race to get through the curriculum is still one that I struggle with. Just in the last few years, I have started to teach with the intention of giving my students a deep, meaningful understanding of a few things, rather than a very superficial understanding of everything. It really is amazing how this profession allows us to continually change and grow! Enjoy the journey.

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    • Erin Benjamin says:

      I can also relate to feeling the need to get through the entire curriculum. Thank your for the reminder to slow down and forget about the time-keeper!

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  2. sharonflaman says:

    I agree! Your comments really struck me! I am new to teaching and am always promising myself I will “get it right” one day. I long for the structure and comfort of the predicability of it, to a certain extent. I see other educators as so organized and confident while I struggle with an inner voice continually making suggestions to improve. It is just in the recent past, I am slowly learning to slow down and enjoy the ride- to my surprise, learning is still taking place! We are often our own worst enemies and are hardest on ourselves. Perhaps that striving to be better makes a great teacher and complacency at bay? Stephen Brookfield (2015), puts to rest many insecurities in his book, The Skillful Teacher. I highly suggest it. It is an easy read and a great resource!

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  3. Luke Braun says:

    Good points Launel. i think there are many misconceptions about the complexities of teaching and learning that exist among the general public. It’s such a complex field and so difficult to define what our roles as teachers are. It would be an interesting experiment to educate the public on learning theory and see if public perception of the profession would change.

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