Lessons From Teaching

In my experience, teachers learn as much as the students do sometimes, if not often. The list of things I have learned from my students, and from teaching, in the last few weeks would fill a whole sheet. But since it is a blog post, I will concentrate on only a couple of them.

First, I can only teach what I know. If I don’t know something, the students won’t know it at the end of the lesson either. Unless by some miracle I have a curriculum that I can just read to the students and it explains it perfectly. But as we all know, miracles rarely happen. Most subjects need teachers to explain, model, and answer questions from the students. If I don’t know what I am talking about (such as what a word means, happened the other day), I won’t be able to explain it.

As a result, I have learned the gentle art of saying “I have no idea”. To honestly tell a student that I really don’t know the answer to that question, but hey, we can figure it out together. I know that I have more respect for a teacher, or a person in general, who says they don’t know, than for a teacher or person who makes up an answer that I find out later is the wrong answer.

Anyway, the basic lesson is that if I don’t know it, I can’t teach it. So my personal goal is to have a basic understanding of all the subjects so that I can explain them. I don’t have to be an expert in math, I just need to understand the basic concepts. If I know it, then I can teach it, and then we all know it!

Second, collaborating can be fun! If you already knew this, good for you. I had no idea that getting ideas from other people and sharing expertise could actually be enjoyable. Maybe it is because other groups I have been in were more focused on proving they were experts, maybe it is because I am a fiercely independent person. For whatever reason, in the past collaborations have always been exercises in frustration. I usually walked away from them in defeat, thinking of all the things I was doing wrong. This time, with these teachers, in this school, I enjoy it. I walk away with great ideas, new insights, and with a smile. These teachers make a great team, they respect each other, listen to others ideas, and disagree when needed. I enjoy listening to their ideas and occasionally chiming in. (As a student teacher mostly I listen, but sometimes I do put my foot in my mouth. I am very grateful for their patience.)

Among the right people, collaboration can be a great thing. In the right context, collaboration is helpful, productive, and insightful. There is a time and place for being independent and making decision I feel are right for the class, regardless of what they are doing. There is also a time and place for knowing that I don’t know it all, and I need help as much, or more than, the next guy.

Teaching is pretty fun.

As a side note, this is my 101st post. Huh. I must have a lot to say.

Shaina Merrick