Written by: Jamie Lee, Founder of Kids at Switch
The other day one of my students was lying on a beanbag in the classroom after our lesson. All the other students had gone and I was in a mad rush to clean up the room before the next group of kids came in. (A frazzled state of mind and an almost mechanical tidying up routine has become pretty standard in what I do). Breaking all my thoughts was the voice of this student’s, who had been watching my frantic state gradually unfold.
“Jamie, I think you’re the best teacher.”
Pausing, my thoughts uncluttered and my mind became as bare as a white canvas. Smiling, I looked back at him – trying not to indulge in self-gratification – and asked, “What makes me not just a good teacher but the best teacher?”
“A good teacher knows how to teach and let us think, but doesn’t let us try things. They give us worksheets to learn and teach, but don’t understand how we learn individually. Sometimes a good teacher is serious… but, being the best teacher means that you know how to be funny and love to make things engaging for us all.”
Nick was a bright kid. I had always known this. But what he said was so simple, it resonated something that was far more complex. Something that undid everything my education degree had taught me, but also things that I had always strived to achieve.
To be a good teacher, you must engage children emotionally.
The first step is to always capture their hearts and then their minds. It helps to understand the child’s perspective, passions and intentions whilst helping you remain invested and calm.
Children love being hands on.
Every lesson should provide positive and engaging experiences that children can enjoy from start to finish. These experiences aren’t found in a predetermined curriculum or textbook. When we engage in lesson activities with children, it lets them see who we really are – a loving, understanding adult who sometimes forgets ourselves when we are having fun teaching.
Don’t wait until high school or university to prepare kids to be innovative.
It shocks me to see the number of young people who have no idea what they are interested in – they had been pushed to achieve rather than pushed to explore. Kids are naturally curious. They will experiment and explore on their own, given the right environment and no helicopter caregivers on the side.
Less is more.
Teaching more information doesn’t necessarily stimulate our children to do something with what they’ve learnt. In fact, too much information can sometimes cause a certain sort of learning paralysis. It’s important to remember that children don’t think like adults, but this doesn’t mean the way they think is wrong. Bombarding our kids with information is one thing, but fostering a passion for learning is another. Remind yourself to keep this balance and listen to what the kids want with curiosity, not scepticism.
Right after I graduated with my Education degree, I vowed to open up my own tuition centre where I would do everything in my power to protect the creativity, curiosity and imagination of children. For the last two and a half years, my team and I have taught more than hundreds of children aged from 6 – 12 practical life skills. Not all of it has been smooth sailing – we’ve experienced our fair share of negative behaviours and mistakes that we should have been critical of, but weren’t.
We have realized the catastrophic effects of negativity in the classroom; whining, anger and general nay saying creates obvious barriers to accomplishment. But when a child like Nick begins to realise, even on a basic level, what we’re trying to do for him, and even thanks us for it, it shows me how defunct the standardised skills in my degree have taught me, and instead, how my own values of creativity and curiosity translate better to the mindset of our children.