April 24, 2017, by Words on Words
Becoming a Learning Leader
This blog post was written by second year English and Philosophy student, Ayisha Sharma.
The question ‘So you’re going to be a teacher then?’ has become almost as common a fixture in the life of an English student as critical analysis and thematic essays. I’m a Joint Honours student studying English and Philosophy, and in spring term, I took part in the Learning Leaders project which involves teaching philosophy to primary school children to find out exactly what the profession involves.
The project began with two training sessions, as part of which I was taught everything from learning styles to how to deal with bad behaviour. A key strategy I encountered was differentiation-designing activities that were suitable for students of all abilities but could be tweaked to challenge further those who completed them with ease.
As we formed teams and began to plan our lessons, I was struck by the creativity of my fellow teachers in simplifying major philosophical topics into fifty minute sessions applicable to ten year olds. Our Ethics lesson plan focused on what you should do if your parents accidentally gave you extra pocket money, while our Personal Identity lesson plan explored the scenario of switching bodies with your best friend.
I was admittedly a little nervous before our first class, having never worked with children before. But as soon as I entered the room, I was greeted by a multitude of eager smiles and bright eyes which set me quite at ease.
More often than not, a teacher must think on their feet. You shouldn’t, for instance, explicitly tell a child that they are wrong as this can prove discouraging. So when I asked a student what she thought philosophy was and she answered ‘it’s about art and drawings’, I explained that one area of philosophy does indeed explore the definition of art and the value of beauty, but this does not cover the entire subject.
The most important thing I learned was that a teacher does not simply provide answers. Instead, they facilitate students in reasoning their own way to the answers. Much of our time in class was spent not in standing in front of the whiteboard and explaining concepts, but in initiating group discussions and ensuring everyone had a chance to express and justify their point of view.
This experience has renewed my appreciation for teachers and I would highly recommend it to anyone who is doing Joint Honours with a subject that is part of the Learning Leaders project. This project also contributes towards the ‘Inspiring Young People’ module, which counts as one of the three necessary for the Nottingham Advantage Award.