Resistance

In Chapter 16 of The Skillful Teacher, Brookfield pinpoints the reason for students’ resistance to learning.

The one that stood out for me and I think it does for most new teachers too: we are guilty of being too passionate. We are drawn to teaching because we are passionate about what we do, when in reality we need to be passionate about teaching. Brookfield explains that being too passionate in our subject makes us blind to the difficulties that students experience that cause the resistance.

He also cautions that this passion can drive us to want to convert everyone, especially the “hardcore resistant students.” (215) When we don’t succeed in converting them, we feel incompetent as a teacher when they don’t believe. Teaching styles can become more preachy than organized. Students resist on the basis that the learning is “good for you” rather than justified. In Brookfield’s words, it comes across as “superficial. (216)

He goes on to list more reasons, some of which are repeat themes in the book and other new. A few examples are:

  • Fear of the unknown
  • Poor self-image as learners
  • Poor teaching styles
  • Irrelevance of learning activities
  • Fear of looking foolish
  • Lack of clarity
  • Dislike of teachers

They are all valid reasons. And when dealing with resistant students, the reasons may be one or many. A bit of reflection and conversation with the students may reveal the reasons, but often it remains a mystery.

Past, Present & Future

I came into teaching rather abruptly, three years ago. There was a plan. It was in the works – take the teaching diploma program and find a nice pastry chef instructor position – only it happened years before I anticipated. The transition from industry to teaching happened in a short 2 months – and that included a move from Los Angeles to Vancouver.

It’s been a steep learning curve. It’s still steep, and I don’t anticipate it plateauing anytime soon. The Provincial Instructor Diploma Program is helping to navigate through and it’s the first step in professional development.

After completing the program, I’m interested in attending teaching conferences regularly to keep up with teaching models and research. It’s also important for me to continue practicing my pastry skills. Thankfully, in the pastry world, there are many classes to keep my skills sharp.

I recently heard about a three day chocolate seminar for pastry chef instructors. It pleases me that even within my industry, courses are being developed for instructional purposes.

It’s a perfect blend of my two favourite things.

Teaching in Diverse Classrooms

In chapter eight titled “Teaching in Diverse Classrooms” of The Skillful Teacher, Brookfield identifies how much the classroom make-up has changed in the last few decades.

It is stated that in the average American adult education classroom, students “from traditionally underrepresented racial and ethnic groups [are] outpacing the growth by white students” and that “multicultural classrooms in which multiple intelligences and culturally grounded ways of knowing coexist.” (Brookfield, 97) The differences of the classroom are not just limited to race but include cultural norms of interaction and varying levels of educational backgrounds.

As adult students, they are in your classroom to pursue knowledge and experience for their future careers. As a teacher, you need to somehow deliver the information in a way (or multiple ways) so that the majority of the class can learn.

As a teacher in this environment, it is important to remember a few things:

  • Be aware that “an individual teacher is inevitably limited by her own personality, learning preferences, racial group membership and experience.” (Brookfield, 102)
  • Get to know the students.
  • Use a variety of teaching methods.

Our experiences make us who we are, but we can change. In the first point, Brookfield addresses that we need to identify who we are, how we learn, and what we know about different ethnicities and races. By performing this form of personal inventory, we can then begin to grow. This change requires effort and awareness. It can be achieved with self-reflection, an activity suggested by Brookfield in other parts of the book.

To help tailor lesson planning to reach the greatest number of students, Brookfield suggests getting to know your students. In his examples, he uses the assessment technique called the Critical Incident Questionnaire. Administered once a week, he his able to keep the pulse of the classroom. If anything issues come up, often they can be identified with this tool and address sooner rather than later.

After getting to know the class through this assessment technique, it is now possible to reach into the teaching toolkit and make use of a variety of teaching methods to increase the number of students you can impact. To be effective in diverse classroom setting, it is not possible to choose a one-sized fits all style off teaching. Often, multiple techniques may be required in one lesson.

Brookfield closes the chapter with a reminder that as a teacher, you may not always reach every student, but “if your purpose is to help people learn, then you must be open to constantly varying your activities in response to what we find out about the range of students we work with.” (Brookfield, 108)

REFERENCES

Brookfield, S. (2015). The skillful teacher: On trust, technique and responsiveness in the classroom. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.