Sharing joy and knowledge from an ordinary life

#TMReading – How Do I Inspire My Learners?

When Danielle and I came up with the question of ‘How do you inspire your learners?’ for the latest #TMReading, we thought it was a great all-encompassing question that would get everyone sharing all the great things they do. Personally, I thought it would be a really easy question to answer. Of course I inspire my learners!

When I came to really think about how I inspire my learners, I struggled. When I tried to put things into a presentation, they just didn’t seem that inspirational at all. They seemed like very ordinary teaching approaches. They might be a bit more creative and perhaps they included more technology than some but could I really stand here and declare they were inspirational?

What I’ve decided to present, because you kind of have to present when you’ve arranged the thing! are some ways in which I raise the aspirations of my learners. Ways in which I get them outside of their comfort zone. Ways in which I get them to ‘go further’ than their intended course aims might have allowed.
Click the image above for my presentation (or here)
High Expectations
The year always begins with the setting of high expectations. There is an expectation and belief set from the start of the course that the learners can achieve the great grades they’d like to if they meet the ‘great expectations’ set. The balloons and ladder help learners to see visually how close they are to their targets on a weekly basis. Their target is whatever grade they would like to achieve by the end of the academic year. This proximity is not measured by grades achieved in essays and tests but it is based on how well they collaborate in groups, whether they hand in work on time and to a high standard, whether they engage with new technologies and approaches to learning as well as whether they challenge themselves to achieve highly. 
Feedback makes my learners ‘go further’ and helps them to believe they can achieve their target after changes to their work. These are my new ‘rewrite rules.’ We now dedicate far more time in class to reflecting on written work and improving it. Because without that, their mistakes will remain just that- rather than valuable learning points. It was watching ‘Austin’s butterfly‘ that really helped me to recognise the importance of learners rewriting their work.
Learning Journals
Learning journals make my learners ‘go further’ in their thinking about lessons. They reflect on the learning that took place. Not just the what, but the how. They think about the learning process and as a result, are far more invested in it.
Planning the course unit makes my learners ‘go further’ in their learning as they’re co-constructing. They’re given a valuable voice and they’re now able to see it in the lessons I facilitate. They were questioned on the process by other teaching and business support staff from across the College and were able to explain and justify the decisions they made. This high level thinking will contribute to their English work too. What the questioning would look like, what the assessment methods would be and how they’d ensured learners would be engaged and learning. Several managers turned up and gave them quite a grilling- despite them having had just an afternoon’s teacher training and planning time!
Out of lesson learning activities make my learners ‘go further’- into blogging, speech writing, online learning and presentations. They are engaged, motivated and inspired to learn in new ways. Whilst applying their learning to their homework tasks, they often also learn other technology and writing skills so that their learning experience is all the richer for it.
Google+ Community
Our Google+ community is a revelation this year. They are interacting far more: giving +1s to things that they’ve read and debating articles I’ve shared and questions I’ve posed.
Class Website
Our class Google website helps them ‘go further’ as they have all the tools at their disposal to explore new avenues of learning and develop their current learning position. The site provides handbooks and unit guides in interactive formats, our student of the month wall, our star skills boards, our homeworkopoly board.
So why do I help my learners to ‘go further’? Because it’s the part of my job that I get a kick from. The moments I remember from my teaching over the last 5 years, and I’m sure in years to come, aren’t the moments they got a question right or handed in a star essay. 
They are my students becoming teachers and subsequently thinking seriously about teaching as a career. 
They are Inspiring a learner to go to University when he though he had no hope of doing so.
They are Inspiring a learner to go to work because a more formal learning environment just didn’t motivate him.
They are A student handing in a piece of work made using a technology I have showcased myself in class.
So I guess I try very hard to inspire them and I’m lucky when I succeed.
But perhaps the thing I remember most is how they inspired me:
To do things more creatively
To offer them a wider range of learning opportunities
To stretch and challenge them
To strive for the same best that they do
To become a better writer- like they are
To laugh a little more
So perhaps our next TeachMeet question should be, ‘How do your learners inspire you?’
My writing commitment: I’m learning to honour my thoughts. I’m learning that my words can be shared before I’ve connected all the dots or learned everything there is to know. My writing can be a snapshot of a single moment in continually-evolving time.

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