Jason is in his first year of teaching Maths at Tamaki College. He has two degrees - one in Commerce and another a Science conjoint from the University of Auckland.
The reality of teaching causes me to reflect often on my experiences in this profession so far. In one of those reflections, I looked into some of the expectations that I had of what I thought teaching would be like, and compared it to the reality of what I am actually experiencing in my school at this moment. Here are three of them:
Expectation 1: I thought that in a career as a Maths teacher, I would only be teaching Maths. In reality, I spend a lot of my teaching time in conversation with my learners about life. I find myself exploring ideas in my class such as why education is important, how best to study, ways and strategies to improve focus, how to participate in discussions. What respect looks like in a classroom, why being positive about learning is important. I have also found myself exploring concepts such how best to conduct oneself in public. How to talk to adults. How to talk to others in the classroom with respect. How to show integrity. What success looks like, what responsibility looks like. I was quite privileged growing up. I took my upbringing and surroundings for granted. A lot of my learners have not had that chance. None of that. It’s easy at times to overlook and expect my students to learn in a vacuum and ignore everything that they may walk into a classroom with. In fact, it’s really easy. I have found that most of these conversations do not happen outside of school as I expected. I have learnt that Maths is not the most important thing to my students — life is. I find myself as a teacher doing all I can to bring these two worlds together.
Expectation 2: I expected that my learners would be unmotivated and unwilling to learn.
Going into a lower decile community, I found it easy to have this assumption. I am experiencing quite the opposite. My learners want, and are willing to learn. They are keen. They just need to know how to tap into that at times. The pride and motivation that I see in some on the sports field and on the cultural stages is unmatched. The key for me is to tap into that motivation and make it transferrable to the classroom. And that’s what being a teacher is all about – it’s about delivering your content, but also trying to make sure that you are able take advantage of what really matters to them so that they can use the awesome tools that they already have.
Expectation 3: I thought that as a teacher, I would go in and teach, and my students would learn. But I found it’s actually the other way round. I’ve learnt more than I think my students have actually learned. On Friday period 6 with my Year 12s (shout-out to my Year 12s!), half of that lesson is review, and the other half I give it to them and they run the show. I ask: “ok how have I been this week? What have I done wrong?” What do you guys want more from me? What should I do better?” And they are like "Sir; you should have split me up when I was talking to my friend.” “Sir you should’ve taken my phone off me Period 2 when I was mucking around. “ “You should focus more on this concept, because we as a class we didn’t understand this”. And that is the most valuable learning that I have had in all my teaching so far. I have all my students who can each tell me and teach me more about what I am doing and what I need to do better as a teacher. That learning experience from my students for me so far has been priceless.