Conversation with Experts -Rick Smith, Author & Teacher Trainer, California, USA
Q: Teachers are meant to teach, right? So, why should they be taught?
A: That’s funny! It’s kind of like doctors have to do professional development otherwise they’ll be like dentists who would be pulling teeth by putting a string on the tooth . Teachers are professionals and they need to continue to grow and learn. When teachers are talking to each other, they are learning from each other and sharing.
Q: And also changing the needs of the children?
A: Yes, and even if certain things don’t change over time, some things do, but even if they didn’t change, teachers would still need to learn, constantly brushing up and getting inspired and trying out new strategies and sharing their successes. It’s a complex profession and it requires a lot of passion and input, over time.
Q: You’ve lectured teachers of different countries, who do you feel are most receptive to your strategies of change?
A: Ha Ha Ha Ha. Everybody!
Um, well, I was just trying to sum up earlier that when I was beginning as a teacher, I struggled in classroom management, and so in a certain sense, my classroom management strategies were written and designed for beginning teachers, and they’re the ones who struggle the most in management and some other ones benefit the most.
I get lots of feedback from foreign teachers saying that I wish I had this years ago, but if you were to pick a category, it’s the beginning teachers across the world, that will benefit the most, and geographically, honestly I keep being delightfully shocked; whenever I go to new countries, people seem to really like the strategy and I’m learning. There are millions of different details that matter and change but the essence of it is behaviour and how to hold your ground and it’s the way it invites cooperation and it seems to get across the world.
Q: What have been your experiences with Indian teachers so far? How many times have you been here?
A: It is my second time and I was in Chennai six months ago. My experience of Indian teachers is that I haven’t seen classrooms. I’ve never been to a classroom so I don’t know how they teach but from the conferences my experience is that the teachers are very hungry for the good stuff that works and they’re appreciable when they get stuff that works. I love teaching here; I really enjoyed the both workshops I’ve done. The response, the receptiveness, the goodwill is extraordinary. I might get the same in the United States occasionally, but this is like large groups of people, and so happy you’re here kind of thing.
You know, it feels great!
It really, really is making a difference. And that’s very exciting.
And I thing that’s the magic of working with Indian teachers is that there’s something, some respect and some appreciation that I’m really noticing.
Q: Like you said that we’ve been changing our education system, like the boards, the examination and the assessments, so what do you think, the teachers are ready at this point to change and put this in action?
A: I think that, regardless of what culture you’re from, if what is shared works and is easy to implement, the teachers are ready. There are a couple things here.
One is that if you’re asking teachers to make quick changes, it’s not realistic. Because teachers are pouring out 100% of their energy, so very small changes, over time actually accelerates the changes radically. I always tell teachers, look, we’re going to try something new, we’re going to teach you secondary, try for one class, your favourite class, one thing, see how it works, work it out then try with other classesand then try something new. That’s the first thing, it is the implementation that if it’s overwhelming, it’s not gonna work. The second thing is that I have a particular passion that I didn’t express in the workshop. It’s that I want to see the lectures be shorter, and I want to see teachers pausing and giving kids a chance to engage actively with the material.
So, as an example, when we’re done with this interview, I could ask you what do you remember from what I just saidYeah, presentation skills, it’s like you see when I speakand I think it really matters, as much as for the show, it engages the learner and I would love to see that all across the world.
And I didn’t know if I would be controversial but when I say that it’s our job as teachers to step back and be the mature one, and give the students a chance to say at face, you know, you don’t need to do that. We’re not going to have our power diminished. It’s the opposite.