17 March 2013

Zen and teaching

One of the core principles of zen is that of "mindfulness" - be aware of your actions and your surroundings, and in the classroom it's all too easy not to be.

A little over a year ago, I wrote about why I don't think groupwork really works in most circumstances, focused on an experience I'd had shortly before as a student in a language class.  My conclusion was that the big problem was that the class had been too task focused, and that the task was completed (the answers written down on the piece of paper), so everyone was happy... except of course the less capable students who were still sitting in silent confusion.

But starting up after the Christmas holidays, I've found myself slipping into a task-focused mindset, almost viewing the class group as a unit.  "I have received the answers from the class, so the lesson was successful."  But one of my classes started before the others, so I gave them an assessed task last week, and when I marked the sheets, I could see I'd let the lower achieving students hide their weaknesses, which I so often criticise other teachers of doing.

The truth is that it's very, very hard to monitor everyone in the class, so it's helpful for me to go back occasionally and look at criticisms I've made of other teachers.  Not to forgive them on the grounds that I make the same mistakes, but to forgive myself before pushing myself to do better.  And this semester offers me a very good opportunity to do better, as I have one less class a week, and two of my biggest class groups have finished, to be replaced with two other groups half their size.

I won't beat myself up over making the same mistakes as other teachers, but I'll work to eliminate those faults.

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