Who you are as a teacher

I had a very interesting, and pleasing, conversation this week. I am a taekwondo coach and I was talking to a colleague socially about training that we have been offering at the club for around a year that my wife and I have been leading. I was talking about how well the participants had progressed technically. She said “that’s down to you”, which was of course very nice to hear. Then she said “you create an informal training atmosphere where people are willing to make mistakes”. That was even nicer to hear!

The reason I am writing this is not to show what a great coach I am! It made me think about how we see ourselves as teachers and whether we actually implement that in reality. Does what happens in our teaching actually reflect our attitudes to learning and also how we would expect to be perceived? Are we getting better at what we are trying to do and what evidence do we have of that? Did that last lesson look like an informal, collaborative, student-centred lesson (if that is what you wanted it to be) and what characteristics of it show that it was (or wasn’t)?

This is a way to be reflective in a structured way. Many people, myself included, find reflection quite difficult. I think one of the reasons for this is that trying to reflect in some kind of abstract way is very unproductive. However, if you consider some very specific aspects of your professional life, it becomes easier. At a more global level, the question could be: “how can I improve the formative assessment for my classes?”. At a more granular level, you could ask yourself whether what you did in the class actually promoted the kind of atmosphere you want to promote.

So, next time you teach, maybe think about the extent to which the content promotes the kind of learning you want to happen.

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