The invisible side of teaching

My teaching for this autumn kicked off in early September. It was as great and thrilling as I suspected. In fact, I too had a dream the night before the first session. In my dream I was teaching but failing terribly and not being able to stick to my plan. The next day I was joking with a colleague that we should get paid for the teaching taking place in our sleep. Only half-joking, as a matter of fact. Getting ready for the actual thing by dreaming about it is not making you feel like you slept well.

Teaching or, rather, enabling learning involves some things that one might not think spontaneously before actually being responsible for it. When I prepared my first sessions some years ago I was amazed how much it requires time. It takes several hours to prepare a session of 90 minutes. The more I introduce new elements, the more I spend time planning. Of course preparation takes place in small bits, but eventually it adds up to hours.

Another invisible aspect is that teachers make up to 1 500 decisions during one day in the classroom. Not having read the original study, I suppose the figure goes for teachers having several hours of teaching daily. This high number excludes the decisions made before and after the session. Thus, you can say that teachers are, or should be, very good at improvising, despite how well they have prepared their session.

I am happy for the fact that I can be involved with enabling people to learn. Hopefully their learning includes things thought to be relevant in the curriculum, and not only learning for life. By the way, the category ‘learning for life’ is my personal motivator as a student when my expectations for a session are failed and I have to get my kicks from somewhere else. Like mentally redecorating the classroom or observing the group dynamics.

My classroom teaching is over in October for a current course. However, teaching the course continues with assessment tasks. And that is an interesting aspect of teaching, which requires a lot of fresh thinking and renewing traditions!

My (almost) reading pause for a week

I tried out a reading pause for one week, inspired by Julia Cameron and the Artist’s Way. For me a reading pause concerned anything I read for leisure, for instance newspapers, magazines, social media and online content. What did I do then? I spent time with family and friends, took photos, listened to music, kept a diary, and just sat and pondered.

However, there’s one fundamental thing I must confess. Well actually two. First, my pause was on my holidays in August, and thus it was easier. No work related reading required. Second, I broke my pause deliberately once due to a devastatingly long trip back from holidays and read a book.

Still, I was surprised during my experiment how attached I have become to reading without actually realising what I am reading. For instance, when I come across a magazine or a newspaper I usually end up flipping few pages. I do this instead of thinking what else I could do in that particular place. Like talk to the people around me.

I’m eager to try my pause again this autumn with daily routines, like work reading and e-mail. However, not during teaching as I need to answer student’s questions via e-mail. But off the teaching season it is possible. Any ideas what I could do at work during a reading pause?

I went to School last Saturday

I went to School last Saturday and it was fun! The peer-learning festival was situated in an old hospital Lapinlahden sairaala (hospital) which was the first psychiatric hospital in Finland. A lovely spot despite the cultural connotation.

The School had openly invited teachers from different domains. For instance flamenco, longboarding, doing things wrong, creative writing, recycling, making boots, sketching, animal rights, time banking, Nietzsche’s relativism, Finnish folk dance, and practicing democracy. There were up to 200 lessons spread across the old hospital during the two days. Such an inspiration!

I took a flamenco class and attended a session about peer-building. That’s when a group of people plan a housing project by themselves for themselves and manage it. Of course, help should be brought from consultants who know the business. After the lessons I chilled out in the lovely autumn weather and enjoyed lunch. Such a perfect day!

Of course this event didn’t pop up by itself. The organisations making the event happen are Demos Helsinki, Sitra, Helsingin Juhlaviikot and Aalto University. Despite the fact that the practical set up was enabled by volunteers and facilitated, the content was up to the peer-teachers. I am impressed by the willingness of people to come and teach others with the stuff they find interesting.

There is so much power in peer activities. It creates such a warm atmosphere when people are ready to share what they know and help others. I wonder what I could teach the next time I go to School?