I used to teach
high school students. I used to think I could teach any pupil,
anything. I think different now. I teach teachers now. A lot
of it is "how to" skills. I used to think I could
teach anyone to be, at least, a reasonably good teacher. I think
I have just finished
a book on using humour in the classroom. I can write jokes.
I can tell someone the steps in how to be funny. I used to think
I could teach a person to use humour in the classroom. I think
Much of what I write
for Good Teacher is "how to" skills.
That’s why Gwen prints it. I used to think that was enough.
I can "teach"
it, but it isn’t learned unless the learner has the "attitude."
They have to be able to think, "I want to change".
They have to think, "I am going to do something about what
I want to change." They have to have an attitude that is
predisposed to changing themselves. Without attitude, it’s all
For example, teaching
communication skills to teachers is hard yacka…tough going.
The 'abc’s' of communication skills are easy. "Here’s six
steps for using language to gain co operation….blah blah blah."
People can even
think, "Oh, that would be nice." But the crunch comes
when the learner has to abandon:
• theway they have
always been spoken to themselves;
• authority; criticism;
• being the source
of all knowledge.
In the place of
all that they need to nurture equality, respect, empathy, suspending
judgment. They have to be willing to abandon power. They have
to unload the mind set that says, "This ain’t the way it
was done to me, and I’m cool, so why muck around."
Taking on communication
skills is as big a paradigm shift in our thinking as it is to
accept that teachers must teach learners in the way learners
learn, not necessarily in the way that we learned. It’s hard.
People often can’t, or won’t, change. I often fail when I teach
From my vantage point it means three stages. First, being able
to reflect on what we do or know and, recognising it can be
done differently or better. Second, an inner "channel,"
an attitude, which says, "let’s do it." And thirdly,
doing it, maybe even with enthusiasm and passion.
and Passion (R.A.P.). And all of those can be rolled into the
Big "A." I can’t teach that. There’s no easy formula,
no simple steps. You’ve got to have it dudes and dudesses! What
I’m not sure about is, can a person "will" himself
or herself into the attitude?
Sounds pretty bleak
for the "Big A," eh? Yet, it is so important.
Our attitude is
the only thing in life we can unequivocally control. We can’t
control luck, fate, world events, the weather, or, other people’s
actions. Ask the victims of the holocaust; ask the dead from
the World Trade attack.
But we can control
how we chose to look at what befalls us. We can choose to be
negative, reacting with anger, jealously, bitterness, or frustration.
In which case, whoever or whatever caused it, controls our lives.
Or, we can positive
in our responses by being optimistic, confident, accepting,
light hearted…seeing problems as challenges and every experience
as an opportunity to grow or to learn or to make us better teachers.
A positive attitude
has some very cool by products. In many areas of human activity,
success and achievement are more a result of attitude than of
knowledge or of technical skills. Maintaining a positive attitude
makes a challenge a growing experience. "The Big A"
makes immovable obstacles endurable. Attitude makes us confident
that we can solve the problem. It makes us able to fail, to
lose, but to never be beaten. Attitude makes us superior to
everything that befalls us.
But, now the jackpot
question: can we choose our attitude, or are we wired from birth
to have a certain attitude?
Attitude has another
characteristic. It is contagious. Others can catch it. Maybe
that’s the answer, attitude can’t be taught, it’s caught.
If that’s the case,
in a classroom, in a workplace, we can use this communicable
aspect of attitude. We can all become "leaders." Catching
a dose of attitude and then use own new "disease"
to set the tone, to create the environment, to establish relationships,
to be who we want to be.
Give the disease
to someone else. We can make a difference. We can be agents
of change by demonstrating the "attitude." So, step
one is to find someone with the "attitude" and see
if you can catch it.