Meaningful Conversations

When we were in NIE, many assignments were centred around coming out with lesson packages. We spent hours sitting down, planning lessons, collating resources, talking and exchanging ideas about how to best teach a certain concept, a skill or a content area.

Now that I’ve entered the school, I realise how little I actually talk about teaching anymore. Most of the discussions and meetings I have are about how to organize and plan our teaching over the term, or settling logistics and administrative matters for school events and various other aspects of student development, but we hardly ever sit down and spend time talking just about teaching itself and how to teach better.

Over the last week though, I’ve gained so much through just sitting down and sharing some of my problems with my colleagues, asking them for advice and suggestions on how to tackle certain issues in my classroom.

Last week, I asked a colleague how to teach students to pull together various points for their AQ and arrange it coherently and she showed me an amazing activity she did with her class, which focused on improving their reading and annotating skills first before getting them to produce the AQ. It was novel indeed and helped me to see students’ problems in a deeper way. We exchanged ideas on what we were doing with our classes on sports and through that exchange, I ‘gained’ a new video which I could show my classes (along with a useful set of guiding questions) and I passed her a comprehension I thought was very helpful for the topic.

Earlier this week, my colleague and I sat down with a more senior teacher in the department and she shared with us her own teaching philosophy and how she reviewed comprehension with her students. It was very real and practical, impressing on me the fact that if you want to see your students’ grades improve, you really have to be willing to put in the hard work and push yourself too.

Just today, I chatted with a colleague about helping our weaker students and learnt about working together with the students to improve samples of weak AQ responses (what we call ‘non-examples’) might actually help them to improve from where they are now, rather than to show them an answer key that is way beyond what they can achieve.

What a delight it is to talk about teaching, especially now that we can test out whatever we’ve discussed and share success or failure stories with each other. We often speak of collaboration and working in teams, but true collaboration comes when there is a real meeting of minds and openness to criticism. I am really thankful for all these conversations and am now armed with many new strategies to help my students improve over the next 6 weeks!