In my class on positive psychology, we discussed the idea of viewing ourselves as learners. Before I went to bed that night, I lay there thinking — teaching can be scary. You’re in front of a crowd all the time, you’re trying to explain often complex material, and the air conditioner is probably dysfunctional, so you’re probably sweating. It can be a little scary to wake up every morning and face that crowd. At least, it was for me.
Two ideas helped teaching get less scary and help me sink into it:
- I Stopped Viewing Myself as a Teacher
Students are still under debate whether teachers are allowed to make mistakes. My students told me last year that they don’t. When I countered and said that I did, they said, “Well, that’s you, Ms. Cecilia. You’re different.” (To say high schoolers can put all sorts of things into just a few words is an understatement. But I love them).
After my positive psychology class, I woke up and made a resolution to myself. I was not going to be a “teacher” today. I was going to be a learner. I taught my classes — all the way from little, squirmy kinders to big, squirmy middle schoolers — and I thought “What am I learning about this student right now? What am I learning about this group and how they learn? What did I learn about how this strategy works for these students?”
I had been thinking these questions anyway, but I had been getting confused with the supposed pressure of teaching. Viewing myself solely as a learner (while still instructing) took the pressure off of myself. I am able to be a better learner, a better teacher.
2. The Class Isn’t a Crowd, It’s a Community
When I first began teaching, I saw the teacher on a stage (a la, “sage on a stage.”) But as I became more familiar with the art of building class discussions, my students turned from members in the crowd to active participants in a discussion to, eventually, members of a community.
Viewing my students as members of a community rather than members in a crowd created a positive feedback loop — the more I saw them as part of a community, the more I built more relationships with them to help them become so. And all along, the more confident I became.
I wish you a more powerful, confident mindset.
Towards a better world that honors our students and their thinking,