Monday, October 08, 2012

My thoughts on teaching

I guess I'd call myself a teacher.

However, I've never been employed as one. I have no formal education in teaching. You could say one of my spiritual gifts is teaching (at least that's how I score on this test). But discerning what to teach and when and to whom is a regular challenge.

I do find myself constantly teaching my kids. Though I've never homeschooled, and don't plan to as of now, nearly every day, I'm actively teaching them something. The other day, we had a whole conversation about legal liability and why our HOA wants us to take down the tree swing. Today I walked them through the whole process of how to get a driver's license. Maybe a little deep for two elementary school aged kids, but I try not to underestimate their ability to understand real world situations if explained on their level. You could say I'm in the constant process of informally educating them on emotions, relationships, the way the world works, who God is, why they are on this earth, and a million other things. That alone qualifies me as a teacher, right?

But at times, though I know I'm capable of certain kinds of teaching, I have a sense that I should not.

For instance, it gets really tricky when I try to teach something to my husband. It may be okay if it's about one of the kids, but sometimes it's not. It may be okay if it's a spiritual matter, but usually not. Often he feels disrespected if I'm communicating something in a teachery way.

Another situation in which I'm struggling to find my place is volunteering in the classroom. If you are a teacher, I'd love your input here. Once she figured out I was capable of it, one of the kids' teachers decided my job would be to take the lowest group of about 7 students into an adjacent classroom to reteach math concepts to them. Basically, tutor them, come up with sample problems, use the white board, etc.  In other words, she wants me to be a second teacher because they are way behind. I feel bad for the kids. I worked with them last week. They clearly have no other help, and most don't come from homes where the adults speak English. How exactly the kids can understand the slight difference between the "hundreds place" and the "hundredths place" is beyond me. I'm capable of giving them some extra help. But I'm not sure it's my job. It's not at all why I'm volunteering. If I agree to the teacher's plans, I'll never be with my own child. Again, I have no training in teaching math, nor do I want to be a tutor. I'm volunteering 90 minutes a week to be involved in my child's life, not be the teacher's assistant. And I'm not sure how to communicate that gently.

Then there's church. I was recently asked to be a part of a rotating teaching team for the 4th/5th grade youth group. This is something I've agreed to, and have my first teaching date in two weeks! But when I stand back, I'm realizing that I've never spoken to 50 or 75 "tweens" before. What if they chatter, or giggle, or are completely bored by what I'm saying? I don't know how to be cool and funny. I don't know how to respond to rude behavior, especially in church. Though I haven't been given my topic yet, I know in my brain that I'm capable of standing before them and having something to say, I just feel out of my element as a teacher. I feel stretched.

Which isn't a bad thing. I'm just hashing out my thoughts with you guys on the subject today. I know a few of you are teachers, and I thought maybe you'd have some tips or input for me. Of course prayer will be a part of my prep for both the conversation with the teacher and the teaching at church.

But it's tricky, this teaching thing.

Maybe that's why I decided to write a blog post.

I'm comfy here. And you guys are so encouraging and helpful. I'm really thankful for your words, whenever you have some to offer.

So no profound wrap-up this time; I'm just processing. If you think of it, please pray with/for me for wisdom and discernment in teaching...what and when and to whom. Thanks friends.


There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens...a time to be silent, and a time to speak....
Ecclesiastes 3:1, 7

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13 comments:

  1. I am a teacher. And having volunteers on the classroom is tough because they are under-utilized or over-utilized. Teaching the group of kids she has given you is scathe to us as well. Maybe just a straight forward "I don't feel comfortable with this." And it is always best to have a backup plan in mind. It can also be stressful having a parent volunteer in the room because teachers worry the parents are judging everything we do. I hope that helps.

    I am also a youth leader. Neither my husband or I were trained for this job. We have learned quite a bit along the way. Sometimes you do have to quiet them down and sometimes they don't pay attention. And those times we try to wrap it up with one memorable point and play a game. No sense in demanding their attention when my lesson isn't coming together. I am of the opinion that their respect of me as a teacher, leader, Christian needs to dime before what I am teaching them.

    Just a few of my thoughts.

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    1. Andrea, thank you SO MUCH for your thoughts today. I really appreciated them, particularly regarding the youth group teaching. Great input. And thanks for the reminder that teachers can be self-conscious too when parents are in the class. Grateful for your help!

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  2. I don't have any awesome words of wisom, but I will pray that the Lord reveals to you how to handle each situation best! Hugs! =)

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    1. Thank you :) I greatly appreciate your prayers.

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  3. I'm a newer reader, but I am a teacher also. I agree with what Andrea said, you may just want to tell the teacher you do not feel comfortable doing that. It sounds like this teacher is very overwhelmed! To have 7 students that are not grasping the concepts in the classroom is A LOT. She probably sees you as a capable and responsible adult and therefore was hoping you could help with this. But it is asking a lot. It sounds like she really does need another teacher in the classroom. Does your school offer extra help for students that speak another language as their first language? It sounds like this could be the main problem.

    As far as working with middle schoolers...they love to talk. They love to be valued. They so badly want to share with anyone else EVERYTHING that they are experiencing. They are also usually very curious. As a result, this can make it hard for them to sit through a more than 20 minute lesson. So I would say keep it short and sweet and start with a discussion. When you let them talk, they want to be there and they feel like they have a sort of ownership to the group. They can come across as disrespectful when they do not sit quietly. However, if you focus on the good comments and commend them when they participate well, you will do fine. They will soon want to contribute their ideas and feelings when they see that you value them. If there is any way you could play music as they are coming in, that usually breaks the ice for them. Basically, let the talking be balanced not always you, but not always them either.

    Hope this helps. You seem like a sweet person and your heart is in the right place so regardless, God will bless your obedience. I pray it goes well with you.

    Abby

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    1. Abby, yes our school is one of many that are understaffed and overcrowded. The class has 37 children in it and no extra help other than parent volunteers. So I feel for all parties involved, especially the kids. I am SO thankful for your input on the tweens too!! Great advice; I will most certainly be incorporating some 2-way conversation into my talk now. I appreciate your taking the time to offer such thoughtful advice.

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  4. I'm a new reader and have been so encouraged by your blog. This sentence surprised me: "I'm volunteering 90 minutes a week to be involved in my child's life, not be the teacher's assistant." I'm not a teacher, but I think it's fair to say that all classroom volunteers should be there to help the teacher. I understand that you'd want to be with your daughter while you're there, and I can't imagine the teacher would turn down an offer for you to do something else in the class that would still be helpful.

    Thank you for putting your thoughts out there. Today I'm especially appreciative of the reminder about "teaching" husbands.

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    1. Husbands are so tricky, aren't they? I will most certainly be trying to work with the teacher so that my time is useful to her and meeting my needs as well. I know we'll find some middle ground eventually. Thanks for saying hello today and for your input!

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  5. When I was teaching in Long Beach, they took away all our teaching aides because teachers were using them in this same fashion. "The lesser qualified helpers teaching the kids who need the most qualified instruction." No disrespect to your mad volunteer skills :) but I feel the same way about using non-credentialed parents taking the most "at-risk" students. My non-teacher sister in law works as a paid aide and they just gave her an ELL class essentially - which makes my skin crawl (as this is my teaching specialty and this is pretty much a non-compliance issue for her district!) The teacher should be working with these students while giving you extension type activities to oversee with the more independent higher level students. That being said, not sure how you say this to the teacher - maybe what the others say - that you feel uncomfortable with the role, that you don't mind occasional concept review but that you don't feel qualified for every day instruction of at risk students - and also adding that you devote this much time to volunteering to be seen by your kids - I think that's very valid. :)

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    1. Totally agree. There are so many problems with the CA schools right now, it's hard to know where to apply my small drop in the bucket of time and influence. Thanks for your thoughts and encouragement on this Shel. I had forgotten that you were a teacher!

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  6. your blog makes me happy - just a honest, open space without pretense. LOVE it. I also love that you want to be with your kiddo in the classroom - it is OK to miss our kids & OK for you to want to spend your valuable 90mins with her...at some point!

    Honesty is the best policy, I believe - tell her your desire to be with your kiddo - she's got to have some sort of task that can accommodate that! xo

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    1. Thanks pal. Yes, I know the teacher and I can work it out. It's just going to take a little intentional conversation and she may have to deal with some disappointment. Thanks for saying hi today, and your kind words. :)

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  7. Hi there! I'm here from Royal Daughter Designs, and I loved your guest post. It really spoke to my heart. I could truly see God's words speaking through you, so in regards to teaching those tweens, I'm sure you will have it under your belt with His annointing. Tweens are in a difficult stage trying to find out where they stand. I have one of my own, but I can tell you that most that I've dealt with, need that right direction to mold them into their teenage years. (hope that made sense). God will be there to guide you easily when sharing His word. Have a beautiful day!

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