One of the best things that I do in my classroom is getting to know my students and how they learn.
I have been a teacher since 2009. My teaching style has changed in the last 6 years. I am now at the point where I’m confident in my teaching abilities. In the past year my teaching style changed as I decided that I could get students to listen to instructions without having to be very controlling. As a teacher with only a few years’ experience I had thought that I had to be strict at all times because if I showed any weakness, my students would take advantage of it. They proved me wrong.
As I became more comfortable with teaching, I decided I didn’t want to be the teacher students worked for because they were afraid of me. I wanted to be a teacher who they could talk to – who would listen to their opinions and who knew them as individuals. I didn’t want to be a teacher who was seen as only working with EAL students and who didn’t know the rest of the class. I wanted to know all my students- a big task as my class can often have up to 50 students (I teach in a team of 3 teachers to 50 students). The only way I could do this was to get to know my students as they worked and to let them get to know me. I restricted my “board talk” in my lessons and allowed students to have more input into their learning.
By focusing my attention on getting to know my students, I have found that this helps me understand them a lot better. I have gotten to know my “naughty” students a lot more and by taking the time to get to know them, they are starting to be engaged in their learning. They are starting to try and attempt work- they are more confident with asking me to help them rather than just giving up as they did before. My more focused students are starting to extend themselves- they are willing to try new challenges because they know they can get support from me when needed. It is amazing how just talking to my students and often with their “lingo” I have seen them become more confident as learners. They come and talk to me in the yard whenever they see me, they will often try to line up with another year level just so they can pretend they are coming to my class. It makes me feel good to see that.
On Thursday an ex-student visited the school and he came to talk to me. He and his classmates were my first class to graduate. I hadn’t taught him since Year 10 but whilst he was at school, he often made it a point to come and speak to me. On his visit he told me that he was going to do a Cert III at a university. I was so proud when I heard him say that- he had a lot of challenges at school. He is dyslexic and he had been a recent arrival to Australia when I started teaching him. He came to say thank you to me (as his English/Humanities teacher) and another teacher who taught him Maths and Science. He told us both that without our help he would have struggled. It was sweet of him to do that. It made me realise that it doesn’t matter what abilities a student has- if they have someone to support them and encourage them, it makes a difference to them. They want someone to listen to them and not just see them as another essay to grade.
My students come from so many different backgrounds and trying to find their place in a class with nearly 50 students can be daunting. I try to take the time to get to know them and I am willing to talk to them about myself. I like that we can talk to each about more than just classwork. It makes them see me as someone they can easily approach and this has resulted in them being happier in class. They are more actively engaged in their learning and whilst at times they will try to avoid work, in most lessons they are focused and willing to participate.
It is amazing how much you learn from students once you let them talk…….. my teaching practice has certainly benefited. I will continue to let them talk and ask questions because it gives me a way to help them and encourage them on their journey at school.