Teaching Teachers

Alison F's Story
Dana’s Story
Margaret’s First Story
Margaret’s Second Story

 

Alison F's Story

I was leading a one-day course for aspiring leaders in church schools (which, in the UK, are part of the state education system). Some of the course members were Christians, others simply enjoyed working in a church school. First, the Local Education Authority representative dealt with the basics of what was required legally and the process for application etc. Following that, an outstanding headteacher of one of our church schools shared his story about how he came to be a head of a church school and how he approached his leadership position. His faith was part of his story and the motivation for what he does. The headteacher’s story prompted open discussion about personal faith over lunch. The afternoon session was on what it means to be the leader of a church school and the relationship between beliefs, values and ethos. It enabled two hours of open conversation about personal faith, education practice, hopes and aspirations. The following day, I received an email from one of the participants who had identified herself as ‘not a practicing Christian’. She simply said, “Yesterday’s course changed my life!”

Commentary

Personal testimony of one person stimulates discussion of education practice, motivating personal faith, hopes and aspirations – leading to a person’s changed life (immediate fruit). Divine moments are not always expected. This happened after a stressful start to the day, where the premises were not clean and had to be prepared shortly before the start of the meeting.

The permission to talk unjudgementally about one’s own life (teaching stories) was kindled through a role play (action teaching) by a person not known before. It encourages others to do things in their own way and to realise what works for a person and what works in your context. One testimony encourages others to share their faith and stimulated confidence to carry on the work.

 

Dana’s Story

In my 9th year of teaching (3 years in primary schools and 6 years in university) I had an opportunity to take part in a two-year-long project looking at change in education in our post-communist country. We had to attend two or three workshop weekends per year. These were times when we could be together in a beautiful country setting, just the team of about 50 people who had decided that they would like to change their style of teaching. We were given four tracks to choose from and I chose “Individualized learning”.

I remember one 3-day workshop in a lovely country primary school in spring time. We had a good, relaxed time. There was a good, not very intense timetable of activities. We had time to talk, to eat, to sleep and to share together.

Our lecturer was a teacher from a Montessori school in another country. His aim that day was to teach us a very important skill which none of us had experienced in our childhood – to shift the activity and responsibility for learning from the teachers to the learners. To begin with, he gave us a sheet of paper which was divided into two parts. On one part we had to write first what we, teachers, normally do when we teach. So we very eagerly wrote down all our usual activities from the moment we enter the class. Then we had to write on the second part of the sheet of paper what the students would usually do and could initiate during our lessons. So we tried to do it and I remember how stirring that was for me.

Then he gave us a second task: we had the same sheet of paper but we had to do all our best to shift as many as possible items from what we had written in the teachers’ part into the students’ part. In other words, we had to talk about the possible ways in which we could make our students more active in as much of the lesson as possible. I remember the atmosphere during this activity. We were so involved in it; we had hot “ears” and rosy cheeks from being so enthusiastic. I remember that I really enjoyed this way of doing activities, of real learning together with my colleagues.

Then came the main activity. The teacher gave us an almost empty worksheet and a box full of strange materials (strings, elastics, rings, nails etc). Our task was to write instructions for our students/pupils so that they would be able to actively work according to them and create a Yo-Yo! We had to use our teaching imagination and to write such instructions that would shift all possible creativity and initiative onto the students. The process of our doing this lasted for about 2 hours (!) and the atmosphere in the groups doing this and the results and their presentation were such a transformative experience that I will probably never forget it. They have influenced my whole way of my teaching ever since that spring-time weekend in the country.

 

Margaret’s First Story

I was teaching some teachers about reflective storytelling. I was telling a Bible story in an unusual way in order to show teachers that pupils could learn from a story as well as learn about it. Suddenly there was silence and an almost tangible stillness. What I had intended as a demonstration of how you could tell a Bible story for children had affected the adults. I was taken by surprise and was not sure how to handle the situation. I never did have to explain how you learned from a story, they had experienced it!

Commentary

Sometimes simple things can unlock learning and it can take us by surprise. Not all learning is intentional, we need to be open to the surprises and allow time when they happen.

 

Margaret’s Second Story

I was writing some materials for teaching history. I wanted teachers to engage with the spiritual and moral aspects of history. Teachers were happy with what they perceived as directly religious but not with anything else. I tried using two biblical words for time. ‘Chronos’ is length of time, events, time in sequence. ‘Kairos’ is significant time, the quality, and the character of time. This opened up being able to look at significant times in an historical period and reasons for that significance, it gave us scope to explore the character of an age (the ‘Spirit of the Age’) and compare it with our own.