Chains of Habit

Chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken 

Warren Buffet

In reading the first couple of chapters of The Skillful Teacher by Stephen Brookfield, I have been intrigues by a few concepts. The first is that even though teaching is a highly variable process, there are 3 core assumptions grounded in skillful teaching no matter how diverse the situation (p.17). These assumptions are:
  1. Skillful teaching is whatever helps the student learn
  2. Skillful teachers adopt a critically reflective stance toward their practice.
  3. The most important knowledge skillful teachers need to do good work is a constant awareness of how students are experiencing their learning and perceiving teachers actions.
The second concept Brookfield discusses is that "we approach teaching a new class [or group of students]with our own collections of biases, intuitions, hunches and habits that frame our initial activities. This can lead to us acting out of habit rather than doing what the students need (p.18)

This makes me think that we should be doing less in our classrooms based on habit, and more out of intent. Habits, as described in the book The Power of Habit, are when we stop making conscious decisions of "how much to eat or what to focus on when we get to the office" [or classroom] and the behavior becomes automatic.

As a teacher, habits help with planning, delivering, and assessing lessons. In fact, when I am training teachers, I often recommend that they make a toolbox of tools they know work and are comfortable for them to execute. This helps lessen the hours they spend planning and builds engaging lessons.

I have been thinking though that these habit may not be what is best for students. Do they help all students learn? or only a few? Do they make me a good teacher? Do they improve the students experience? Is the purpose clear to the students?

In beginning this journey of reflection, I can say that we teachers want to achieve certain goals like creating student-centered classrooms, engaging students, giving students their own power and ownership of their learning, and helping them develop.

To do this, and break the power habits have on our classroom to build room for intent,  we need to plan for and work towards “small wins." This call to action is suggested  in the article Teachers Changing Habits Together by Tsisana Palmer. These "small wins" help by creating new structures, and they establish cultures where change becomes contagious. And fundamental to any learning is change.


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