What teachers never say

Instructor colleagues generally seem to be relaxed about their teaching.  I haven’t seen them stressing about learning activities, lesson planning, or classroom dynamics.  I might hear a comment about some stressor, but it’s usually said in such a way that the instructor doesn’t actually appear to be at all concerned.

I feel like I am a constant stress-mess with teaching.  I worry that students will compare me to the other instructor, that they won’t engage in my learning activities, that they will be bored.  But I don’t talk about my stress/worries either.  Maybe we are all guilty of maintaining the calm façade, when we are all experiencing internal turmoil.

Enter Stephen Brookfield, and his book entitled “The Skill Teacher”.  In chapter 1, Brookfield dives right into some “truths” about teaching – all the things that teachers feel, but never say.  A few of the truths resonated especially strongly, and it was comforting to know that some of the feelings I experience when teaching are quite common.  Some of the “truths” that I recognized in my own experience are:

  • Feeling like an imposter.  I don’t know if I will ever feel like I have enough skill or knowledge to be an instructor.  But I don’t think this is entirely negative, as it will drive me to continue my own learning.  This feeling also evokes a sense of privilege that I am able to contribute to my students learning.
  • Can’t make everyone happy.  I know that all students will not enjoy every activity every single time.  I can’t take it personally, but I can use this fact as a challenge to constantly be evaluating how my students are learning, and revise the activities to better meet their needs.
  • Cannot motivate everyone.  There are some students who simply do not want to learn.  Trying to discover what the barrier is, and attempting to break it down may help the student to engage in their learning.  And sometimes, it doesn’t matter how much effort we put forth, if the student is not willing to also make some effort, they will not learn.

I think the key with these, and with all of the “truths” of teaching, is that they are not uncommon.  Teachers shouldn’t be afraid to discuss these with their colleagues.  By broaching these subjects, instructors might spend more time in self-reflection about their own teaching/learning practices.

Reference:  Brookfield, S. D. (2015). The skillful teacher: On technique, trust, and responsiveness in the classroom (3rd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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