‘Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.’ Anton Chekhov
If I tell you, I run the risk that (a) you won’t actually be listening, (b) you won’t really understand what I mean or (c) you won’t remember what I said. (And in any case, if I can tell you by just putting it into words, I might as well write those words down on a piece of paper so you can read them in your own time.) No, I want to show you. I want to bring my ideas to life by weaving a story around them. I want to breathe life into the concepts by creating a story that connects with your experiences. I want to make a lightbulb spark to life in your mind. I want to help you understand something, to see something, anew.
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“I want to get you thinking about consistency now, and how it is that sometimes we might not be as consistent as we would hope. In your groups I’d like you each to talk briefly about two different students. First, a student that you love. A student who always listens, and works hard, one who is just generally lovely. If you’re a parent, perhaps you briefly considered naming your own child after this student. And second, I’d like you all to talk about a student who gets on your nerves. One who, for some reason, really winds you up.
Okay, now could I get someone to tell us a bit about their lovely student? [‘…….’] Thanks, that’s great. In a moment I’m going to ask you to be that student. But don’t worry, you won’t have to do anything. I’ll explain in a moment. Now can someone volunteer to tell me about their difficult student? [‘…….’] Thanks. In a moment I’d like you to be that student. Again, don’t worry, you won’t have to actually do anything. Now imagine I’m teaching, and both those students happen to be in my class. I’d like my two volunteers to just sit there and do nothing. As though you’re refusing to work.
[In ‘teacher’ role, goes over to the ‘lovely’ student and crouches down.] Is everything okay? Do you need some help with this activity? Come on, I know you can do this. [Stands up, strides towards the ‘difficult’ student and starts to rant.] Why aren’t you working? What is your problem? If you don’t get this finished you will be staying in at break … Now obviously I’m exaggerating, but here’s something that they don’t tell you when you train to be a teacher. You will like some students, and you will find it really hard to get on with others. And this can come through in subconscious ways. As a professional, you have to learn to overcome your emotional responses, to treat all students consistently, no matter how you feel about them.”
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This is not a ‘role play’. This is me bringing the learning to life.
Postscript: After reading Debra Kidd’s beautiful post today, I was reminded of something that happened once, at a lunchtime after I had used that particular scenario. A teacher came to find me, with a drum case that one of his students had made. Earlier, this student had been the nominated ‘tricky one’, the one that I had reacted to differently, because of my subconscious feelings about him. ‘He’s a good kid, really,’ the teacher said. ‘Look, he made this in my lessons.’ And that’s another story, that I share with the teachers I meet.