I was recently asked who I am as a teacher when I’m at my best. I started to talk, but then the person hushed me, and said, “No. You have to wait an hour before you can answer.”
Being a teacher, that caught my attention, because I know what the person meant. She wanted me to really, seriously think about it, then let it go for a while to let my brain work without me. I often ask kids to do this!
Then I should return to it again to fine-tune it and catch anything I didn’t have quite right.
Here is what I came up with.
When I’m at my best as a reading teacher on Skype: (my lessons are online—not in person!)
- I am fully and completely immersed in the child’s lesson experience.
- Every word the child says, every letter or sound or passage that she reads carries hidden messages for me about the precise things she does and doesn’t understand.
- I don’t let a single thing other than that child and her experiences into my thoughts.
- I respond to any cues at all that show me she is not clear on something, no matter how unrelated they may at first seem.
- Sometimes the best response is to remain silent, and that one is the hardest of all.
- I focus on her feelings, mood, skills, natural talents and needs, and respond intuitively with a sure and complete knowledge of my area of expertise.
- I am open, aware, and monitoring closely in case there is something newly apparent that I’d not considered before, that I should perhaps try using with other children too.
- We are learning equally.
If I stick to this, and if the child’s parent understands the need for the student to be away from the family, the TV, the dog, and any other distractions, we can be sure that she is receiving the best possible experience for her valuable learning time, and for the parent’s fee, if one is being paid.
And that night? That night I will sleep very well.