It’s always a pleasure to watch and listen to Carol Read present. She has contagious positive energy and enthusiasm that can put the audience on their toes. I had the pleasure of watching her plenary speech online on BBELT Conference at Mexico, February 2020. She started by saying that the theme of this conference is Transformative Teaching and in order to transform we need to be able to cope with the children, and the situations we are in and to blossom and flourish with what we are doing. Sometimes, we forget about ourselves and feel guilty if we do so.
Teaching is a stressful and exhausting job, but what makes it so? Then, she asked the audience to discuss in pairs 6 reasons for that. Then she suggested a number of them:
n Challenging behavior
n Unrealistic expectations from parents and school administration
n Pressure to pass exams
n Limited space
n Limited materials and resources
n Learning differences
n Long hours with a lot of work load
n Low self-esteem. How teachers are valued and paid in society
Then she mentions the popular quote “a good teacher is like a candle……… it consumes itself to light the way for others”. Then she asked if the audience liked it, for which they gave a NO!! Then she continued: in order to transform the lives of our learners not at the expense our lives how can we light the way to them? We need a reliable charger if we are burnt out! So she preferred to share a better quote which is “To care for the teacher, is to love the learner”. Thus she believes that we need as teachers to survive and thrive as this is the way to the transformative teaching we are aspiring to. Then she shared six practical survival strategies:
A. Look after your voice
n Don’t speak too loud
n Find your natural pitch
n Stay hydrated
n Do vocal straw exercises (you can see its practical application on the presentation link https://www.britishcouncil.org.mx/how-survive-and-thrive-language-teacher-children
B. Make and break routines
n Routines create order and security
n Are predictable and build confidence
n Save your giving instructions
n Foster a learning community
n Allow more time for teaching and learning
n Help you look after your voice
She believes that when children get older, they want to break routines and have surprises. Then she started giving examples:
1. Gym sequence (practice different moves in class for energizing students)
2. Natural thinking puzzles e.g.
a. A man rode into town on Monday, stayed 3 days and left on Monday.
b. Little game:
- I like apple, but I don’t like pears
- I like green and yellow, but I don’t like red
- I like running and swimming, but I don’t like dancing and walking
(what is the criteria?)
3. Look for ways to be creative e.g. line up in order of name, surname, height, birthday…..etc. OR during checking the names for the school register/attendance, assign the students names of countries, so when you call the name of the country, they mention the capital city, or assign each a wild animal and they call out the name of the baby animal …. etc.
4. Spelling gym for spelling words and reciting the alphabet (see the wonderful practice of the idea on the link above 55:02 minute).
5. Memory game. Look at a number of pictures, cover them and ask the students to remember as many as they can and write them down. Then ask them, what is common among them? Is there a link between them? Identify the meaning of each picture.
6. Make Milage out of your materials to make them more attractive and agreeable to your students. Add a creative touch to your work.
C. No nonsense approach to classroom Management. Use SOS
n Softly softly: go slowly with activities and explain reasons for using them. You can also change (adapt/set up) activities to enable us to manage our classes in a positive way.
n Only one person: use the idea of CBG i.e. catch them being good. Look for the positive rather the negative behavior. Use praise never fake it. Show that you value their behavior.
n Stay serene: Play the waiting game with one neutral body language. Also use the ‘art of the deadly stare’. She also suggested negotiating things with students for automacity and agency. You can also use choice boards.
D. Find ways to reduce your work load.
Try that without cutting corners e.g. have templates for lesson plans or correct assignments for one objective to save time. She also suggested the need for achieving work-life balance as we need to thrive. Then she mentioned why is thriving sometimes hard:
n Lack of work-life balance
n In ability to switch off
n Anxiety about things we can’t control
n Negative thoughts
n Tendency to be perfectionist
n Feelings swapped by demands.
Then she moved to mention the importance of ‘Wellbeing’. It depends on your goals and way of thinking. It is important for both teachers and students as it leads to better academic achievement and performance and at the same time reduces increasing levels of stress, anxiety and depression. Then she showed some shocking statistics:
She believed that ‘Wellbeing’ should really be ‘a goal or the goal’ for education as schools should prepare children for ‘the tests of life rather than a life of tests’.
After that she gave a number of ideas to improve ‘Wellbeing’
She also advised teachers to look for ‘the positive’ of our children and ourselves. Look for the things they can do rather than they can’t. Then suggested using sticky notes at the end of the week for example and ask the students to write three positive things and share one with the class. Interestingly, she moved to compare ‘fixed mindset and growth mindset’. They show how we look at things. A growth mindset helps us to have persistence and perseverance i.e. resilience that we need to breed. Thus ending her discussion with the 4 R’s:
n Resilience ------------------ growth mindset
n Resourceful --------------- cognition, finding ways to develop our skills and help our
students to be autonomous
n Reciprocal --------------- when to ask for help and be collaborative
n Reflective --------------- Train students to reflect on learning, be self-aware and apply
all this to our teaching as well
Then she summed up the whole session with the following slide
Closing with a final message
As this would help us become the transformative teachers we all thrive for.
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