Learning while Teaching

I have always heard the adage that you learn when you teach, and I have always believed it. I have had more and more of an opportunity to teach as my career has progressed and I have always found I did learn something while teaching. The lessons generally included thoughts on being better prepared, planned, well rounded and lessons that deal with people and students like patience, compassion, empathy, when to be lenient and when sternness is necessary. I find more and more that there are so many subtleties when teaching that blossom from the setting your in, the material your covering and most importantly the students you are delivering material too and their personalities and issues and how those effect their perception, connection to the material and response. Lots of items to juggle, and some you have to react to immediately in order to keep things moving in the direction and toward the outcomes you want.

I ran into a buzz saw yesterday and the lesson I was giving directly applied to me. At least I heard myself at this point I’m not sure how many others did. My buzz saw was a room full of students, who were starting their next semester, after the grades for my class had been posted and their assignments had all been finished. 

I felt and still am glad I did do this, that they deserved additional feedback from me regarding their final projects. While I was thrilled at what they turned in and produced, there were some glaring errors and omissions that needed to be handled now so that they can easily move past them and not make them next time. There is going to be a next time for them. 

As the discussion moved forward, I was getting sidetracked from what I wanted to cover and even had to rely on student conversations to help reign us back on point. As we sloughed through some touchy issues, specifically about grades, I was able to express my overall point about the assignment, in that now matter how detailed the rules, expectations and takeaways from an assignment there are, there is an even stronger learning experience from the doing.

Doing the assignment can teach you so many lessons that I can’t impart. Or better put lessons that I have learned from doing the work and are ingrained in me to where, I assume you know it. Even that is a bit of a cop out, because we all know there are a multitude of subtleties in the doing of the work that can’t be expressed in the assignment directions, such as working on team with different personalities  illustrating your work and packaging it together. I have my preferences when I do my work, but those are not always the best way or even the right way, and those results are tied to me and my personality.

The students needed to do the work themselves. There is value in the doing of the assignment. Not only value, but lessons that can make a stronger connection with the student then with me just telling them.

It was a tough conversation at the end of long day for them, with clear frustrations from their part being expressed. I heard it all. I have been there. I hit the buzz saw. But I was glad I did it. I was glad I went and I was glad I engaged them the way I did. One, I felt they earned that with the amount of hard work and they  put into their projects. Two, there were specific lessons that actually carried weight now that they had done the work versus me just telling them what and how to do it my way. Three, I would have wanted that experience, chance, conversation if I was in their shoes, which I was at one point.

The big lesson of the afternoon, Value in doing. I relearned that and learned how it directly applied to my teaching style and the material I deliver. I went and did what I felt was needed and necessary. I learned a lot from it, form the interaction I had with them, and the conversation we all had together  I made some mistakes and learned quite a bit form the entire experience. I hope they did too.

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