The right tool for the job

Arguably the largest factors of student engagement are the teacher and their teachings; without us there would be no structure, no lesson, no need for motivation. Its not just the obvious ‘how, or what we teach’, equally if not more important, is understanding who we are, and how we interact. This week I heard the term Teaching Persona for the first time whilst reading Faculty Focus. It is described as our teaching identity. As much as there are (and I can think of many from my childhood) teachers who are not reflective, being such allows us to self criticize, adapt, and overcome challenges in our practice. As the old saying goes, first impressions count and from the moment we set eyes on our students or engage in those first words, we are judged; every question we ask, our mannerisms, our approachability,our teaching technique, whether we like it or not who WE are directly effects the motivation and engagement of our learners. Linda Shadiow says:

The learning environment is better served when we start with our own identities and purposefully choose to draw on what will serve students learning in that environment

Of course, we can’t entirely change who we are in the classroom, our ‘normal’ personality will always play a huge part of who we are in the classroom, but having the ability to “draw on what will serve students” is a key attribute of a great teacher. We need to be acutely aware of the learners reactions to us, to be able to tune in and understand what works, and what doesn’t. We all make mistakes (I certainly have over the years) but over time, we can construct a persona that we can freely adapt to different students and environments. Build the tool kit and then pull out the the right tool when the job demands it.


2 thoughts on “The right tool for the job

  1. You raise important points about awareness and growth. There is an implicit challenge in your advice that we be “acutely aware of learners’ reactions to us” (and I would add to content and to their own learning). I struggled for years in trying to learn from their “sight-line” rather than just from my observations and interpretive assumptions. What headway I have made in this involves finding ways to actually ask them–like having them complete a couple of sentence-stems (“In this course it helps me when…because” and “it would help me if…because”). What they most often give me is a “learner-sighted” view. How are you able to move beyond interpreting their reactions through your own experiences and assumptions?


  2. Thank you for your comment Linda, I have to admit I didn’t expect a referenced author to comment on my blog…I think I had stage fright! The additions of “learners reactions to content and their own learning” are welcomed. Having the awareness of the learners reaction to content, allows us to again mould our approach, the delivery or if needed, our persona to best suit that student. My students (due to age) are seldom aware of how they learn best, so by encouraging reflective and critical thinking I hope to create the ‘aha’ moments and replication of the process.

    For me (and this does depend on my class) I follow a similar approach to your sentence stems as this appears to be the learners breaking down the delivery or content of a class. I like to choose an informal setting shortly after a topic or lesson, and allow the the students to just talk freely which yields similar results: “this happened because of this” and “oh, did you get that” or “John, why did you say XYZ” etc. Using this information is of course key, I try to then breakdown the highlights of the conversation and include any reoccurring elements in my delivery next time through.


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