We left behind the notion many years ago that teachers teach, they don’t learn. One only has to look at the thriving community of teachers on Twitter for example to see a massive group of teachers trying hard to learn and understand new ideas, new tools and new ways of teaching.
But often that search is a very personal one. Teachers learn, but they do so on their own or perhaps with support from a colleague or dare I say it – a training course.
What about the people you’re with every day – your students. What do they have to teach you?
Student voice is something that has gained an increasing toehold in schools, including some where the pupils themselves observe teachers and provide constructive feedback. Teachers who participate often find you can get incredibly useful feedback from your students on your teaching style and topics. This is a very direct way of learning from your students and can reap considerable rewards.
Sadly, misfortune can strike someone at any age – and it certainly will have struck some of the children learning at your school. Some children show an extraordinary degree of personal courage in the face of adversity. In doing so they provide an example not just to their classmates, but to us teachers as well. It’s easy to get dragged down by the day to day of planning, marking and other paperwork, but seeing your job through their eyes helps you really put things in perspective.
Adolescence is a highly creative phase with children trying out different things to understand how the world works. No matter how patiently I try to explain to my 2 year old daughter that gravy doesn’t go with sponge pudding – she has an almost unstoppable drive to test it, try and and see for herself. As we receive and develop wisdom we gain so much, but we lose some of that creativity that helps us as adults challenge how the world works and improve it. Why not take a look at your role through the lens of one of your students – how would they approach it, what might they try, what questions would they ask? The answers to those questions may surprise you.
If as teachers we are learners too, we have a lot to learn from how others approach a similar task. Hours and hours of learning a day is an enormous mental task – how do students approach it? What do they find interesting? What sustains their engagement. There is no-one better placed to answer those questions than you, and you can use the answers to help design programmes for yourself that you can really get into and deliver the best results.
Finally, even when it comes to a more classic definition of knowledge students still have a lot to teach us. You never know when you’ve got a skilled beekeeper sitting in front of you, or a champion gymnast. One area where this is particularly evident is IT. With their minds so flexible, it’s well noted that children take incredibly quickly to new technology whilst adults struggle to catch up. You can either fret about that, or just go with the flow. Get your students to teach you what they know, and watch your teaching blossom.
I would love to hear your views on this, including what you’ve learnt from your students over the years. Either comment below or tweet me @creativeedu – I’d love to hear from you.
If you’re interested in student voice generally and are in the UK, we do have a range of students voice courses including the one linked to here.