© 2017 by Emily Rose Seeber. 

  • Emily Rose Seeber

What I think about teaching when I'm sitting in the sun...


It's a beautiful day in school today. 14 degrees Celsius according to the Geography department. The sky is blue and I have just spent a lovely hour sitting in the sun with a cup of tea instead of planning and marking. This makes me feel positive; it makes me feel hopeful; it makes me feel invigorated.

View of the library.

My students...

Like most teachers, when I'm thinking about teaching, it's the students who come to mind. I wouldn't do my job at all if it weren't for all of the diverse characters who keep me on my toes every day. I need to be challenged and I need variety, otherwise I would descend rapidly into madness (a.k.a. eating grass). Relationships with different students ensure that I am always pushed, and no one day, week, or year is the same as the next. On a sunny day, I think all my kids are fabulous. Even the really annoying ones. I can see their potential, celebrate their talents (even if they are not in Chemistry), hope for their futures. I am not feeling frustrated with any of them; all because the sun is shining.

My lessons...

Time sitting in the sun is time to reflect and regroup. Sometimes when we are focusing on the continual 'plan, teach, mark' feedback loop, sometimes our reflections can be very superficial. We need to step back and allow the brain to relax so that it can do some diffuse thinking - creative problem solving - this prevents the feedback loop from becoming too formulaic. Sometimes we miss opportunities to deal with deeper problems in our classrooms because we are too focused on solving the surface problems quickly and effectively. A recognised technique for deeper thinking recommended by cognitive scientists is to focus hard on a specific issue, and then switch off to a non-stimulating activity (like sitting around and letting the world go by for a few) and let those 'Eureka!' moments about how to solve a persistent issue in the classroom come to mind. You'll be surprised at how many good, out-of-the-box ideas that you come up with.

My school...

Sitting on a bench in the sunshine is a good chance to think big about changes in a school; really aspirational thoughts which would usually be couched in pessimism (or realism if you're that way inclined). How could we radically alter the whole assessment system so that students feel motivated to improve? How could we adjust the management structure so that staff are better supported? Are there better ways to run behaviour management? What can we do to ensure there is enough breadth of choice in the timetable? Should we start more internal CPD or well-being opportunities for staff? Are there ways that we can arrange peoples' timetables better so that they can be more flexible? What kinds of events/lectures/short courses could we offer students to enrich their education? I usually find that an hour in the sun with a colleague gets me half way to designing the perfect school...

My department...

Sunshine always melts the ice in a department. I actually love my department, but that doesn't mean that I will never have days where one of them has done something to irritate me. But sitting outside gives one a bit of perspective about any issues. And the same diffuse thinking can be used to solve any real problems (i.e. ones not cause by everyone being a bit overworked and overtired). Time to bring staff well-being to the forefront of the mind - what can I do to support X better with Y?. I also find that it is another opportunity to debate the big ideas about improving T&L, either on my own, or with another member of the department outside the pressure of being in a minuted meeting. Should we swap the order of teaching in this year group? Should we try doing this practical in a new way? Should we do some intra-departmental CPD and organise a feedback session to share best practice? Shall we all read a chapter out of this book and use it to reflect on curriculum changes?

My office...

My office is always a mess. I try to justify this by claiming that I am very busy, or that I am creative, or that the second law of thermodynamics states that my desk must descend into chaos. The truth is that I am lazy. Or, to be more precise, I am lazy about things which I think are not important, which includes tidying my desk. I have just had a meeting with a student sitting outside in the sun. So it really doesn't matter if my office is a mess today!

The view from my office.

#personal #wellbeing

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