Teaching is an Art

Teaching is an art. Art is subject to interpretation, evokes emotion and appears in any form. Similarly, what teaching looks like is subject to the teacher, the relationships that form between a teacher and student are emotion laden connections and teaching occurs in a variety of ways.

Thoughtful pedagogy* can only occur if a teacher is willing to combine 21st century teaching pedagogy with their own best practice and a seamless infusion of relevant technology. This combination adds complex and dynamic layers to what thoughtful pedagogy looks like.  For these layers to mesh harmoniously, teachers need to negotiate their time spent creating, planning and teaching, their role in the classroom and their attitudes toward teaching / learning with technology. At the heart of these harmonious layers thoughtful pedagogy can be seen.

As educators, we often talk about effective practices around classroom environment, management, use of resources and modes of communication. In my observation of thoughtful teachers these layers (environment, management, use of resources and modes of communication) occur naturally. These teachers understand through a pragmatic approach how to create a physical classroom layout that is not only conducive to the age of the students but also activity dependent. For example, thoughtful teachers arrange their classroom in pods for group work, semi-circles for discussion or separated desks for tests. These teachers arrange the desks based on access to resources, ability to view the boards (digital and non-digital) and most importantly their ability to circulate and assist students. In addition, classroom management strategies are not overt occurrences; students and their behaviors are not managed but instead these thoughtful teachers modify their tone, gestures, circulation and flow of the class. It is important to note that students of thoughtful teachers are rarely surprised by these modifications – it becomes part of the ebb and flow of class. In addition, these teachers use a combination of (digital and non-digital) resources in which students either learn with these tools or learn from these tools. They find meaningful and authentic tools that relate to the curriculum and the learner’s stage (ZPD). Also taken into account are opportunities for these tools to foster or increase learning with and learning from others. Thoughtful teachers utilize a whole host of oral and written communication methods. For example, homework announcements are posted on blackboard, whiteboards are used for daily agenda and additional notes, student-teacher conferences during class, character development notes in agendas, reminders via email etc. This list is endless and can deviate into a variety of tangents related to homework, discussions in class, parent communication, communication for collaboration etc.

Taking a step back from these complex layers and the collisions that occur from these dynamic intersections, I am making the assumption that the teacher has spent time and energy planning authentic, meaningful activities. In conjunction with this planning, the layers I speak of above will allow for creativity and higher order thinking to occur within the learning activities. The teacher’s role has changed from being the sole provider of information to a facilitator and connector for the students to find and apply information to develop their learning. The teacher is the individual that bridges gaps in knowledge and helps to build good habits in social and educational situations. Classmates play a similar role.

Thoughtful pedagogy evolves as teachers play, mix and modify these layers to create different combinations conducive to their learners. Finding the right balance is not a constant. It is about finding the right balance depending on the situation.

The big question still stands: how do all teachers become thoughtful teachers and demonstrate thoughtful pedagogy on a daily basis? There will be more posts on this topic….

* Thoughtful pedagogy (credit given to a friend and colleague) in this context means the colloquially used term in education: good teaching

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