Agile Teaching 103

At this point, you’re almost home. You’ve set the context for learning (Agile Teaching 101), you’ve created memorable lessons (Agile teaching 102), and one more thing remains…

We learn to do something by doing it. There is no other way.” – John Holt

I’d like to advocate for the value of “homework” or practice as an invaluable teaching tool. It is every bit as important for grown-ups as it is for children because every student (young or old) experiences some level of apprehension or fear when faced with something new.

If you’ve done your job as a teacher, then you have participated in bringing your student to an uncomfortable edge by introducing something new to his reality. If you want your lesson to translate into your student’s every day life… and I sincerely hope you do, because that should be your success criteria… you will have to help him to overcome his fear of trying out his newly discovered skills.

Therefore, in all that you teach, there should be an opportunity for your students to practice what they’ve learned in a supportive and safe environment. This will give them the opportunity to gain the confidence in themselves and their team (yes, group work IS important) that will allow them to use what they’ve learned in the days to come.

Happy Teaching 😀

Agile Teaching 102

Now that you’ve created a good foundation for your teaching, you’ll be ready to dig into the some new stuff with your students.  Here’s my second tip for your consideration…

“All learning is done through meaningful association.”

This picks up directly from Teaching 101’s “Teach them where they are at” idea from last week.

If your goal is to have your students retain what you have to teach, then you’ll need to help them create connections between what they already know and what you would like them to learn. Memory is a key component to learning and your new lessons will only “stick”, if you can find a way for your student to capture and own that knowledge.

Start with what is familiar to them and create connections to the new material. In this spirit, it doesn’t hurt to throw in as many different styles of learning while you are at it. For dry material, I’ve been known to sing at my students and dance like a fool in front of them… anything to help create a meaningful and memorable connection to what’s new. If you are truly interested in teaching and haven’t read Gardner’s book Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences, then you might want to put that book at the top of your reading list soon to explore different types of learning in order to integrate this into your teaching tool set.

Stay tuned next week for the next installment in this series… Agile Teaching 103… 😀

Agile Teaching 101

In Agile, we know the importance of continuous improvement and the key role that learning plays in this process. But we rarely speak of the important role that teaching plays in making it all possible.

I started my career as a high school English and Math teacher and, long before that, I worked with university students with learning disabilities. It’s from this experience that I would like to offer up a few tips for Agile teachers out there.

Here’s the first…   “Teach them where they are at.”

It’s not uncommon for novice teachers to try to pass along their agenda without consideration for their students’ context. In our eagerness to impart knowledge, we forget that our students may not be ready to receive what we are trying to teach.

Instead we need to take time to understand the current reality of our students. Consider what hurdles they are going to have to overcome before they can entertain your agenda. Keep in mind, these hurdles can be knowledge based just as much as they can be emotionally based.  Good teachers work to to fill-in those gaps…

So beyond gauging the knowledge level of your students, this implies understanding what motivates the people that you are teaching. Remember also that if your students aren’t self-motivated, then you’ll be expected to create that motivation. Motivation is important, because motivation creates active engagement in your students. Active engagement is the only way that a student can tap into the brain power they will need to learn what it is that you have to teach.

Stay tuned next week, for Agile Teaching 102… 😉

Lessons in Discomfort

Once a week, I try to make it to my yoga mat and to my Yin Yoga class.  Beyond the obvious benefits of yoga, this class helps me to put into practice some important conflict management skills…

Yin Yoga is a practice whereby the student places himself in supported stretches for a length of time. So, once settled into the pose, the student connects with his breath and holds the position for approximately 5 minutes. When discomfort occurs, the student is instructed to stay in the pose and to gently bring attention and awareness to the sensitive area.   Breathing through the discomfort for the whole duration of the pose if necessary.

When I bring attention to discomfort during Yin, I usually discover that I can relax a little more and that doing so almost always brings with it relief.  This doesn’t work in every case and on some days, it’s harder to do than on others… but I have learned two things from this continued practice:

1. Shifting my position may bring temporary relief but almost always results in a displacement of the discomfort to somewhere else.

2. Adopting a mindset of attention and awareness has allowed me to stretch my body in ways that I didn’t think possible.

These lessons in discomfort are something that I try to practice every day.

When faced with an uncomfortable situation on your Agile team, try bringing gentle attention along with awareness to the discomfort. Try to resist the urge to correct or to fix. Work with the team to “relax” the situation without changing it.  Doing so will help the team to stretch in ways they may have not thought possible.