Not just ticking boxes

When I did my teacher training (PGCE) over 20 years ago, we were encouraged to plan our lessons to the minute. To set out our objectives to the students at the beginning of the class and to summarise what they had hopefully learnt at the end. All of this is important, and yet through this admirable meticulous planning I think that sometimes, something gets lost, perhaps forgotten. That is the very people who we are going to teach. Our students.

You see, as we are focusing so intently on our lesson plans, we are perhaps seeing the lesson through our own eyes. We are imagining how we are going to teach it. How we are going to get our points across and how we are going to make ourselves understood so that boxes can be ticked.

Through many years of experience I have come to realise that this isn’t the way.

When I blog I use my own voice, but as I write I imagine the reader. I think about how they are receiving my words and what it will mean to them. I try to put myself in their shoes as the receiver, rather than concentrating on myself as the giver, the planner, the font of the knowledge. I took the same approach when writing my book. I wrote it as if I was the consumer, which tragically meant laughing at my own jokes!

When I teach my Taekwon-do classes, I see every student as an individual. Everyone has a different goal. Even those students who are grading for the same belt will be approaching it in very different ways. This is why it is so important not to just tick the boxes. This is why meticulous planning must remain flexible and it is why Instructors must approach the lesson from the student’s viewpoint and not just from the point of view of what they want to get across.

This approach, although it sounds sensible and obvious, actually takes a flip in the Instructor’s head. It probably takes confidence that perhaps comes from experience. It means that every time I address a student, I am trying to think about what I am saying from their point of view and not just thinking that what I am saying is imparting great knowledge.

Each student hears things differently. Each student walks in to the dojang with a different agenda. No student fits in a perfect square box. When I take the time to immerse myself into each of my students’ heads, then I know that their goals will be reached and their individual boxes will be ticked.

Photo credit to Radnor House



Melting worries

I turned to my 18 year old daughter the other day and asked her if she’d ever smoked. 18 years old and I’d never asked her before. It seems I’d only just got around to it. As I was rather pleased that I had finally thought to ask one of the questions that is surely in the parents’ guide of things to ask, I asked her one by one if her sisters had ever smoked (just in case I didn’t get around to asking them myself).

This morning I was thinking about this as I remembered how, when my daughters were really little, I was dreading the fact that they might smoke when they were teens. Of course, even now I don’t want them to smoke. But the point is that I forgot to worry about it when they became teenagers. I forgot to worry about it because bigger worries came along and took up my head space. I worried about them taking drugs and then this worry was displaced with a worry about screens and now this worry has been displaced with a worry about dreadful things happening to them when they get drunk.

Of course I am not suggesting that I am only capable of one worry at a time, but it made me realise that many of my worries simply melt into nothing and are replaced with trust.

When we reach a point with our teenagers that we feel able to trust them, it feels as if a huge weight has been lifted from us. We are quite literally able to take a big step back and observe.

We can observe their fuck ups. But we can also observe that they are doing just fine.

As parents we will never, ever stop worrying. However, we must not smother our kids with our worries. I don’t think there’s any harm in letting them show either – it makes our children feel secure and maybe, perhaps, think a little more about how they act and what they do.

A teenager needs to feel trusted, because just as parents we feel more relaxed when we trust, our teenagers will gain in confidence with the knowledge that we trust them.