before we left for thailand i remember sitting at the kitchen table and telling you, dad, how i was worried about teaching: whether i’d be a good teacher or not.

you told me that a good teacher is someone who’s always looking at what they’re doing and blowing it up; trying to figure out what works/what doesn’t, how things can be improved.

i’ve had my share of moments where i’ve started to seriously doubt myself, wondering whether i could do things better, wishing i had planned more or not planned as much.

i’ve also had my share of moments when i thought, wow, that was awesome!
maybe i am good at this teaching business.

this post requires a lot more thought and brainpower than i can give it (after being up since 5 am and only getting 6 hours of sleep and running a mile barefoot and teaching four classes and teaching an hourlong Thai lesson after work) BUT it’s nearing the end of the semester and some reflection is due.

i want to write about:
– how your advice helped keep me from crazily doubting myself
– how meditation was great for keeping me focused on the moment instead of doubt, too
– how fear of failure and being okay with failure come into play as a teacher and a traveler
– how expectations versus reality make the difference in how long it takes to adjust (from Professor Bruce Barbee’s class freshman year)
– how it’s good to be overprepared and underprepared; ego and the above
– how i had to relearn the secret of games for teaching versus booklearning (kids like games based on chance not necessarily their own ability)
– how learning Thai from a Thai teacher gave me a good perspective on how it feels to be a student… in a class of 2, nonetheless, imagine 55 students…
– how learning Chinese from memrise.com helped me realize how much mnemonic devices are the best thing ever.
– how it’s been really fun to teach thai to two of my coworkers and to create mnemonic devices with them
– how in both my English classes and my Thai tutoring sessions I’m using a lot of bodily movements to prompt certain answers (super s, rainbow falling tone)
– how happy it makes me when my M1 students want to practice speaking outside of class (it helps that i can understand a little Thai)
-how my Super English kiddos are learning not only their book and phonics targets but also conversational things and how the two words “purple bananas” get mentioned at least five times a day

this list is longer than i wanted it to be! and i actually intended to link to two articles from a blog i love and wish i had read earlier in my life: cal newport’s study hacks.

Zen and the Art of Investment Banking: Why Working Right is Better than Finding the Right Work
—this article resonates in so many ways, especially being out here in thailand and teaching and not having a ‘dream’ yob by now.  attitude toward work is exactly what it comes down to; we’re in charge of our feelings and our happiness.  is it called locus of control, in psychology? whether you have an internal or external locus of control; whether you feel like you’re in control versus things happen to you? this came up a lot today, with several different co-workers. i think i got a good foundation on this from you, mom and dad. learning about buddhism is helping, too. i’ve noticed how much better i feel when i acknowledge and take ownership of my feelings or the heart of the situation, instead of feeling like something is being done to me.  what teaches children this? how are we socialized into this?

Anatomy of an A+: this came up when i was looking for the last article; goes along with what i’ve been thinking about how students learn, which should be much less about the material and way more about how you create experiences and visual imagery and connections. like those mnemonic devices. i decided i’m going to create some drawings for thai letters to upload onto memrise as an art project.  and games. games are way more fun when the goal isn’t to learn per se but to accomplish something else.  are teachers magicians? i’m sure other people have written about this.


One response to “teaching/learning

  1. Love it, you are learning!!! Here are some other things that your dad has learned.

    1)To teach others, you must understand the concept and be able to put it at the level of those you teach.

    2)Teaching starts with the concrete, hands-on; body movements, gestures, things easily remembered and moves to the abstract.

    3)Teaching is very difficult the first three years and becomes very easy the next three years as you use all of the knowledge of what actually worked with the learners the first three years.

    4)You always plan every aspect of your teaching lesson before class (best to plan by time–this takes three minutes, this takes 5) but once you are in class, you can change and ad-lib based on the responses of those you are teaching.

    5) The rewards of teaching are never monetary, but are found in those “teachable moments” when others have learned and show it.

    6) You can always improve your teaching. If you do it right, it is an eighty hour a week job where you are continually looking for things to show and improve someone's understanding of an idea, method or concept.

    7) Never be afraid of showmanship when you teach—the younger your audience, the more they like sounds, sights, and magic tricks which illustrate your lessons.

    8) Teaching is about the individual. You teach to a class, but learning takes place individually and every individual has a different key for them to learn. Some like touch, some like your interest, some like how you teach but ultimately, teaching is like coaching a sport, you push each person in the process to help them excel.

    9) Sometimes the best teacher is a quiet one who listens, learns, and tries to understand the problems each person is having. With some learners, get out of the way and stimulate them to strive more, with others, find a way to see where they are in the process of learning.

    10) Most difficult lesson learned by your father- one never personalizes the thoughts and actions of those you teach. Assume each means well and address issues as issues, not problems.

    Love DAD

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