We are all looking forward to upcoming International Teacher Development Institute webinar on March 3rd (you have still time to register http://itdi.pro/webinar.html ) that will be about error correction in the classroom. As an introduction and a kind of warmer, there was a launch of the new iTDi blog where lovely and inspiring posts were shared on the same topic – http://itdi.pro/blog/.
However, today I was thinking about it and realized we tend to forget mistakes we, teachers, make. I know that it is not particularly interesting and for many teachers not even something they want to think about. I understand! I hate making mistakes in the classroom but no matter what, it happens.
Suddenly, I found myself with some questions to think about:
- Is it (or does it have to be) embarrassing experience for a teacher or rather an opportunity for connecting with your students on a more personal and human level?
- What does a teacher do when s/he makes mistake in the classroom?
- How do students react to teachers’ mistakes?
- How do you avoid making mistakes?
I may not have all the answers (or at least not answers that would work for everyone) but I think we all should start with thinking more about the roles teachers play in the classroom. Is a teacher an all knowing “encyclopedia”, a partner or a role model? I prefer to be thought of as a role model and partner – a person who is an example of a learner who found the way to learn that suits their personality, needs and expectations; a person who learned how to learn and is happy to share and help others on their way of discovery.
So is making mistakes embarrassing? It definitely is an embarrassing experience if you and your students see you as that “walking encyclopedia”. A teacher, native or not, does not have to know everything, does not have to have the correct answer all the time, does not have to come up with some miraculous solution for every problem students might have.
What do I do when I make a mistake? I connect with students! In fact, I connect with them even before that by empowering them, including them in decision making and leaving a part of the responsibility for learning/teaching in the classroom on them. We communicate a lot in the process of learning/teaching, discuss things and when I am not sure, they are there (so many bright minds in one room) to help me and each other. And that is basically an answer for the rest of the questions I mentioned above. I don’t try to avoid mistakes. I speak (really) with my students and I share my doubts that are sometimes English, sometimes Slovak language related.
We may sometimes stand alone in the front of the classroom. We may feel insecure by all that responsibility we have but by embracing our “humanity” as teachers we will really be there to help someone make a change and understand that it is always learning and not learning vs. teaching.