In my music studio, from time to time I stop and look at my own teaching and assess what works, what I could have done better and what makes children smile. I know all successful teachers are constantly looking at their own performance, it is a necessary part of growing teacher skills. Sometimes I think we focus too much on want we want to teach, and neglect the how, forgetting to adapt to individual learning styles.
Children should be happy to learn. They learn best through laughter and play. So if children are not smiling and not enjoying their lesson, they are likely not learning much. I know this, but I still have to keep reminding myself.
Here are some of my thoughts which I hope will start parents and teachers thinking and reassessing how they deal with children in their care. Parents are their children’s first teachers and will also be their last, and teachers can have lasting influences on their pupils.
I am passionately interested in how and why kids learn or don’t learn, so here are some points that worry me:
1. Children have an infinite capacity to learn. If we unlock the door by capturing their interest at just the right moment, enormous things can be achieved effortlessly. It feels like riding a huge wave of enthusiasm as large pieces of life’s jigsaw fall into place. But how to open that door…. Trying to push knowledge though the keyhole of a locked door is very difficult as all parents and teachers know! Hmmm…
2. How can I unlock this door by my presentation, and generate excitement without dumbing down learning, in the hope that children might swallow smaller bites. How we bore children – they just stop listening! What works well in my teaching? What bores me and therefore everyone else? These activities can be dropped – always another and better way to present.
3. I am lucky to work with quite young children who by their transparency give me instant feed-back of my success. It is wonderful when teaching through fun and laughter to watch the doors fly open as we all move forward together. I review the moods and quirks of the children and how much there reactions reflect their own age and home life. How can I encourage each child to be open and relaxed, so learning can take place?
4. I regard the building of confidence to be the key to all learning. A confident child will take up ideas and run with them. A confident child will be willing to try new things and take risks. A confident child will be willing to make mistakes, learn from them and keep trying. A confident child will be willing to laugh at themselves and encourage others. A confident child is a future leader. How can I encourage this growth, knowing it is all too easy to accidentally put a child down and dampen learning?
5. Do I make children feel happy and secure? Are they drawn to me by my warmth and understanding? Are they happy to follow my leads and add their own ideas? In these days of pedophilia we tend to keep children at a distance. This is understandable, but children need to feel that you care about them as an important person in order to listen to what you have to say. It can be so easy to unintentionally antagonize a child with an unguarded look, a harsh word. So important to respect the dignity of each person.
6. Who will need some special help next year? How can I make a troubled child feel especially important?
Hope this has given you fodder for your own thoughts and that we all strive to make this a very special year for each and everyone of our children.