On Teaching: Believing in Yourself

Sometimes I feel a bit guilty about all of the time I spend on the Internet. There is a lot of useless things that I have just got to quit. I am talking to you Buzzfeed. Other times, I don't.

But I came across a true gem. And this is something for which I cannot take credit. I owe it to my partner, Xenia, who was watching a video from TEDx. "Why People Believe They Can't Draw--And How To Prove They Can," is a talk by an amazing educator named Graham Shaw. As she was watching it, I couldn't help but be taken by this man clearly explaining a simple method for drawing cartoons which would lead to surprising results.

He is amazing and inspiring for the simple fact that he comes across as being so convinced that he can impart his knowledge upon his students. The audience chuckled as they saw examples of what Mr. Shaw said they would be able to do. They later chuckled at how good their own results were.

The larger take away is: If you were so wrong about your ability to draw, then what other abilities might you have but have never attempted to awaken?

When people say that the best teachers inspire (eye role), they mean that a teacher does what Graham Shaw does.

Here is the video:

While an undergraduate, I went to a workshop where an experienced teacher gave a talk about how teaching is more of a lifestyle than a job. A teacher is always on the lookout for materials to use in the classroom. Back in the late 1990s this meant convincing supermarket managers to hand over their display boards once the sales promotions were over. If the supermarket wanted to use Frankenstein to sell soda, then this teacher certainly saw potential the following year.  A teacher looks at everything as potential teaching material.

This past week, I gave a 90 minute demonstration of a kindergarten level class to all of the teachers. The goal was twofold. One, I needed to show the teachers how to coordinate with a teaching assistant. The assistant is not there to control the class. She is there to help whatever I am doing. And two, how can I do multiple activities with a single piece of book content. Of the 13 students in the class, half were students who I have never taught before. I was going to show the teachers some of the material that my students are already familiar with. Then I was going to teach the parts of the face. I thought it would be best to use flash cards but while prepping my material I noticed that my drawings were awful. The Ted Talk came to mind and I followed Mr. Shaw's method of face drawing and then just added arrows to the body parts during the class. I got the drawings done in a couple of minutes. In fact finding the video on youtube took longer than completing the drawings.

When I presented the cards with the cartoon faces during the demo lesson, the students and the teachers laughed aloud. They enjoyed what I showed them. The interest sparked by the cartoon faces gave me the attention I needed to introduce the vocabulary and teach the lesson.

Without the step by step instruction, I am sort of lost. I am not great at drawing. But drawing is an essential skill for presenting language to young students. How I think about drawing seems to have a great impact on whether or not I can actually draw. The same is true for many things, including speaking a foreign language. What it takes is a teacher who believes that there are simple steps that can be grasped and lead to abilities that were previously thought to be unattainable.