Friday, January 28, 2011

Teaching Classes

When I first began to teach writing classes, in the early days, long before the new achievement-measuring, paperwork-obsessed regimes, and no-one even asked to see your lesson plans let alone learning outcomes, I used to keep a record of what happened in each class. I noted the paticularities of each student and these would inform the kind of lesson plans I created. At one point I was teaching three classes a week and because each group was different, so were the lesson plans. I had the freedom to change direction at any point if that seemed right. Later on, that would prove difficult to do because if you had put one thing on your Scheme of Work form and were then seen to have done something else it would create all kinds of confusion. What if an Inspector came and noted the discrepancy? How could anything be Measured unless you stuck to your pre-constructed Plan? Later on I would find ways to circumnavigate these difficulties, but in the early days I just kept notebooks. My brief - the one I gave myself - was to create an environment where whatever it was that wanted to emerge for a particular student could be enabled, that people should experience the intense play that is a part of the process of working creatively with words and language, that they should begin to express themselves in a way that was authentic.

The other day, in a hunt for something else relating to the project I'm now working on, I came across one of my notebooks where I had recorded the progression of a particular class. Lots of descriptions of students that bring them again vividly to mind, and I realise a large part of the work was this holding in my consciousness of the different people. So much of what happens in a class, or any group (or relationship, for that matter) moves invisibly, and slowly, before anything concrete or substantial manifests. Which really makes a nonsense of the idea that you can state a learning objective for a particular student at the beginning of the class and then measure to what extent it had been achieved at the end.

At one point, in the notebook, I recorded that "they want to know where I come from. No, not London, Primrose Hill, Hackney, but where I really come from, you know, originally, because of that look about me. Something foreign. And the way I speak. I tell them my parents were refugees from Germany before the war, but that I am from here and that I lived in Germany for some years as a child.
"Oh," she says, "I thought you had a speech impediment." Everyone laughs loudly to cover the indelicacy of such a remark and she doesn't understand why they are laughing. She noticed something about the way I lightened on the letter L and thought it was a speech impediment. That's all. She doesn't see what is funny about that."

LOL :)

6 comments:

Fire Bird said...

they were lucky to be taught by you, with that quality of attention and curiosity about the individual. it is so sad that all forms of education are measured out of any meaningful existence in our current standards obsessed culture.

Cusp said...

Blimey...I wish I could have been taught by you ...with that sort of dedication and real interest. Bet you miss it ....

Reading the Signs said...

Hi FB and Cusp - I think the kind of attention and interest I brought was so much easier at that time when I could do more or less what I wanted. I did have a clear idea of what I wanted to cover - and the freedom to do it whatever way seemed best or make it up as we went along. I did love the teaching - but it also took a great deal of inner substance and there came a point when I knew I couldn't do it any more. I might do something occasional again in the future.

Zhoen said...

Oh, I'd have loved for for my teacher. On the other hand, I learn from you quite often as is.

Reading the Signs said...

I bet you'd have been a lovely student, Zhoen, - and one I'd have learned from too.

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