Do you ever think, “I’d like to do something different in my classes, but…
- There are no new activities
- The students will hate it
- I can’t fully predict how this will turn out
Changing our habits and taking risks to expand our teaching horizons can be an unnerving adventure for most of us. Unfortunately, it’s not just lack of exposure to new methods or materials that make it challenging to keep your teaching fresh — it could also be your unconscious thinking patterns – about your materials, your students and your planning decisions - that can make it even more difficult for you to make a change.
Top Thinking Traps
These traps come from a great blog post on litemind.com and are based on psychological research and studies and have everything to do with being human and not much to do with being a teacher. However, as ones who like to throw the inspiration net wide, there could be some interesting lessons to learn here. After all, we are people first and teachers second, and the often unconscious way our thinking impacts decisions and choices is bound to have influence on both our personal and professional lives.
The Status Quo Trap
This could also be called the inertia trap. Why was it so easy as a new teacher to experiment and try new approaches, resources, methods? Because we had no established frame of reference – no status quo – to break from.
What can you do about it? Consider the status quo as just another alternative. Don’t get caught in the ‘current vs. others’ mindset. Analyse the appropriateness of new approaches and unfamiliar techniques, but try doing it as you would have all those years ago.
The Confirmation Trap
You hear about a new way of teaching, or a different kind of activity, but you have suspicions. You seek out someone you know who has tried it (not very successfully) and you ask her why it didn’t work. You have just walked into a confirmation trap – you looked for information that would most likely support your initial suspicions. Apparently this not only affects where we look for information, but also how we interpret it.
What can you do about it?
Don’t avoid or immediately dismiss information that runs contrary to your initial opinion. Seek out devil’s advocates and keep an open mind. Be aware of our natural inclination to prove ourselves right and first try to prove yourself wrong instead.
The Incomplete Information Trap: Check those assumptions
You’d like to try something, but you are sure your students would hate it. However, you hear about how another teacher is quite successful with this new thing. Instead of rejecting it with the belief that it just wouldn’t work with your students, analyse those assumptions more carefully.
The Superiority Trap
This trap states that in general, people have a rather inflated opinion of themselves. This is even truer for those people who have enjoyed a fair amount of success in their chosen field (read: experienced teachers). We like to think all those accolades of, “You’re the best teacher ever!”, and “I LOVE your classes!” are reserved for us and us alone, and for our styles and approach alone. However, this just isn’t true.
We can all benefit from continued growth and change, but believing that you have nothing left to learn (or that none of the plethora of thinking traps apply to you) won’t facilitate this.
Staying humble doesn’t minimize anything you already do. It merely makes it much more possible to continue doing more great things – in ways you haven’t in the past.
We are always asking our students to take risks and get comfortable with making mistakes in service of learning. Perhaps it’s time, if we truly wish to continue our own growth as educators, it might be worth considering to what extent we take our own advice.
For more thinking traps to avoid, check out litemind’s blog: http://litemind.com/thinking-traps/
Posted by Tania