There are two ways of teaching. The first is what I call “teaching above the head”, and the second is what I call “engaging within the moment”. The former is undoubtedly the easier of the two, as it allows you to deliver class content exactly the way you had planned, regardless of who is within the room. As far as I’m concerned, this way of teaching attends to the class as if you are teaching to the back wall of the classroom, skimming the heads of who is actually right in front of you. The latter, is hard. The latter forces you to engage with the learner. The latter is as unpredictable as human nature and means you will have to think on your feet. The latter calls for lesson pivots and means you may have to diverge from your plan. The latter can be messy, and for those teachers with perfectionist tendencies (like myself), it can be as cringeworthy as the sound of nails on a chalkboard. To teach in this way is to have a plan, to come prepared and to then be prepared to throw it all out the window and muddle through uncertainty, to hopefully arrive somewhere.
In my opinion there is no other choice when working with young people. I had to accept the uncomfortable fact that teaching people in general, let alone young people, will always be a messy process – one that we hopefully get better at with experience, but one that we won’t always execute perfectly. Every learner is different and although there are effective teaching processes that stand the test of time, teaching needs to always be about responding on the spot. This is where we can find God within the classroom. It is within this unpredictability we can learn to ask for gods guidance – to engage with and reflect on what’s happening in the room, throw out a little (or big) prayer for guidance, and then respond to the situation. Sometimes I find that the moment taken to call out for divine guidance is enough time for my natural reaction to diffuse and a guided response to take it’s place. This process often happens in a matter of seconds. As teachers, we know a fair bit about what we are teaching and how to teach it, but we don’t always know how a student will respond. Sometimes this is out of our control and is where God can step in. The more we can allow our responses in those moments to be guided by the holy spirit, the more moments of insight, discovery and maybe even transformation can happen for the learner, and even for ourselves as the teacher.
By Hannah Darkins
Dance Educator, Creative Youth Development Advocate