Teaching from the HEART
What does it mean to teach from the HEART?
Everyday we come to our “work” or “job” and show up with our purpose. Sometimes that purpose has more clarity than others. Do you remember why you became a “teacher”? Do you feel that purpose in your heart each day when you get to school?
Quite often these days, I hear people say that they do what they do because they “have to”. “What does that mean?” I ask. “What makes you think and feel that you are being forced to take the actions you take each day?” “Is some person telling you to do this thing or is it a thought that you have which you interpreted from something you have seen, heard or talked with someone about?”
The structure of teaching a classroom of students can take many different forms. You the teacher get to choose each day how you want the structure to be. While we all want the students to learn, what is it we want them to learn? Do we want them to “read” or “learn to read”, write or “learn to write”. These subtle differences make a big difference!
Teaching and learning mean different things to different people. By taking the time to reflect on your definition and the meaning of these words you can integrate that information into how you teach and expect your students to engage in learning.
The head and the heart are two very important elements to effective teaching and true learning (not just in school). What are some things you have learned in your life? Are they things you wanted to learn or things you were told you needed to learn?
In my experience relationships and connection are key to learning. I remember learning to read. I remember “Dick and Jane”. I remember being moved from one reading group to another reading group where I was more successful learning to read. I remember learning the patterns in the words and being given opportunities to see the connection between the words and the meaning. I remember telling stories with the words and retelling what I had just read.
So the head uses thinking to figure out how we will teach and the heart uses our sense of connection to the children, the methods and the materials we use.
As a Speech Language Pathologist I have relied heavily on my words and thinking to support others in their learning journey. As of late, I have learned to use less thinking and more connection. When a student comes to work with me I take time to look and listen to how they are feeling and what is on their mind. I use retelling as a strategy for helping them to organize their thoughts and words and connect them to their experiences. Many times the students I am working with are stressed by being in school. The expectations are not necessarily in alignment with their interests and abilities. They hear words and phrases that don’t register with their comprehension. They may watch another student complete a task and copy what they are doing.
When I see this happen I ask myself are they “learning’ or are they doing something. Copying is a very helpful strategy. However, when it is integrated with other information such as language that describes the actions taking place and labels items it can turn into a more in depth learning experience.
Unfortunately, each teacher can’t work one-one with each student all day long, as I am fortunate enough to do. They can, however, adapt their instruction to use language that reaches a wider range of students and begin to use some of the strategies that I teach in my individual and small group instruction.
One strategy I share with teachers is the “Story Grammar Marker”(Mindwingconcepts.com). This is a tool used to retell stories that are heard, read or experienced. The Story Grammar Marker allows the child to see and learn the key elements in a story. The structure frees up their cognitive capacity to make connections between the elements. It integrates visual, auditory and kinesthetic modalities for learning.
Most stories have a Character, Setting, Problem or Initiating Event, some feelings and events that the character engages in to solve a problem. Problem solving in stories is often implied. By using a critical thinking strategy the teacher and the students can often begin to discuss the problem solving that is happening or needs to happening. That is how “learning happens”. Where students are learning how to solve problems and use language to express their ideas.
And then the Heart comes in. By connecting students to the feelings of the character in a story they become emotionally engaged. We know that emotions are essential for engagement and learning. We can learn passively or actively. We remember and apply learning that is emotionally charged. When the head and the heart are engaged we are focused. When we are feeing one way, such as scared or hungry and being “taught” we are likely not engaged and learning.
How can you teach from your heart?
How can you connect to the heart of all of your students?
What changes can you make in your daily routine that will make your teaching more heart centered?
Making these changes can feel very uncomfortable and also exciting at the same time. This excitement and discomfort is vulnerability at its best. Our time has come to co-create change and become more vulnerable so that we can connect with our students and each other.
My goal this year is to partner with you on this journey and celebrate your changes and the exciting changes you will see with your students.
I will be offering small group and individual coaching so that you can take action and balance your teaching energy between your head and your heart. Together we will co-create the process you believe will connect you with your students and measure their progress as they engage and “learn to….” .