A glimpse into my days in Gawad Kalinga (GK) communities

I work in school leadership positions which involve working with students but without a teaching load. I haven't regularly taught a class for over ten years. At GK Padre Pio School, I have picked up the chalk once again and it's been a wonderful learning experience!  I've always tried to keep up with changing classroom practice and this teaching opportunity has provided a chance to test some of my ideas and beliefs. These are my learnings so far:

1. Relationships, relationships, relationships
Children need to know that I care about them. Full stop! Resources make a huge difference but if my relationships aren't right then it doesn't matter what whizz bang lessons I have prepared or what equipment and resources are used, the learning will not be as effective.

2. Stories
Everybody has a story. I need not only to hear the student's story but to respond with compassion. Then my job is to take steps to ensure my words and actions cater to and enhance the student's story.

3. Teaching is active
Teaching is not a passive occupation. It is a dynamic role that requires detailed planning, flexibility, creativity and stamina. The old adage still applies; "A teacher on his/her feet is worth two in the seat." I need to be actively engaged in learning to model and assist desired behaviours, to observe, provide and monitor,  to guide and facilitate optimal learning and to provide timely feedback.

4. Smaller classes are a blessing
The research may not rank class size as a significant factor in learning, however, it's no surprise that I find it much easier to be truly present and effective when teaching a smaller class. (However, we must take into account the school's financial situation and first implement factors that have a greater positive impact on student learning.)

5.Shared values are critical
Everything I say and do (or don't say or do) tells the community who I am and what is important to me. When students, staff and families know and share a set of community values there is congruency among all parties. My job is to explain, remind and uphold the community values through both words and actions.  If quality relationships are valued and this is expressed through speaking politely to one another, it is clear for all that swearing and yelling are behaviours that are not tolerated in the community. 

6. Students need and want boundaries
We all want to know where we stand and children are no exception. Boundaries provide a safety net. It is critical that I explain and regularly reinforce my expectations and boundaries.  Giving students the 'heads up' on expectations allows them to succeed. Explicitly acknowledging desired behaviours when they occur is a powerful reinforcement. 

7. Students want to be with their class
We all want to belong; students included.  My job is to help students belong and I do this in a variety of ways both in and outside the classroom  I work hard to help my students behave in a way that ensures they can remain in the classroom, working co-operatively with their peers.  

8. Parents are part of the package
I need to involve parents. They can be my greatest ally and support if I treat them with respect and help them to become actively engaged in their child's learning in the classroom and at home. I can't expect them to know our school's expectations or how to help their child's leaning if I haven't shared this with them. They need to know that I am working on their behalf for their child, their family and our community.

9. Teaching is a challenging role
There is no doubt that teaching is a challenging job! I need to be 'on my game' all the time. Sleep, exercise, healthy eating, adequate water consumption, prayer/meditation and 'down time' are all important in ensuring I keep up with the daily challenges in an energetic, positive and enthusiastic manner.

10.  Teaching comes from the heart
My non-teaching family and friends rib me about the short school hours and long school holidays. I simply suggest they enrol in a teaching degree. I haven't yet had anyone say, "Good idea. i think I will!" Teaching is not a job for just anyone. Teaching comes from the heart. I know that working with children is a passion; a desire to share a love of learning and a belief that what I do today positively impacts the future of our world. And, when the flame of passion subsides, it's time to find a new job. Our students need teachers who are alive and burning with passion for their work. 

To all those who have been my teachers; formally or informally, child or adult; anyone who has shared with me their wisdom, their gifts, talents, patience and passion; I sincerely thank you. 

By Christine Shaw

Original blog can be found here: http://www.simplyspirited.com/life/ten-things-i-have-learned-about-teaching