When I graduated from ‘Teacher’s College’ after three years with my Diploma of Teaching I was ready to integrate all my subjects, teach the ‘New English’ and practise Piaget’s theories by progressing through to symbolic representation of number after beginning with concrete materials and pictorial representations.
This was the ’70s. I had learnt computer programming using Fortran and photocopiers were only found in libraries. A far cry from today and the technology that is at the fingertips of even the poorest citizens in our Western world.
As teachers and diagnosticians we are constantly trying to work out how to improve our pedagogy to help our students to become capable and responsible citizens of the world. In the last twelve years I have been trained to teach reading and writing at least once very two years. I have been taught how to teach problem solving in Maths at least four times and have had at least three lots of professional development with regard to teaching the vocabulary of Maths. Then there has been training in Bloom’s Taxonomy, Quality Teaching and Formative Assessment. What have I learnt from this – apart from the fact that we will never have all the answers ?
Well, it has dawned on me that ‘new’ can have several different meanings. Sometimes it can be a new name for an old method that has come back into favour. Integrated lessons were all the rage in the 80’s. They disappeared for a little while, then snuck in a little with COGs units and are now back in full swing with 21st century learning programs such as project based learning.
I am also coming to understand that ‘new’ can mean a change of emphasis. The saying, ‘students come to school to watch teachers work’ certainly has been true of the way we have taught in the past. The aim is now for the students to take ownership of their learning in situations where they are pursuing their own inquiries and are being helped to articulate the learning that is taking place by reflecting with their peers and the teacher.
I am learning that I enjoy being exposed to fresh approaches and that it is fun to give them a ‘go’. Its interesting to ‘play’ with technology, ideas, and fresh methods and watch their effectiveness in terms of student engagement and understanding.
Most importantly I am being encouraged to reflect on my ‘new’ learning in relation to what I have learnt in the past. In this way I can hang on to what are effective teaching practices, force myself to let go of comfortable, useless habits and learn to understand and apply improved methods of teaching and learning.
As the pace of change quickens and what is ‘new’ loses its gloss faster than ever, I have also been learning to appreciate the importance of being connected to other teachers via social media. So much can be gained from sharing and questioning our ‘new’ knowledge and experiences.