Last night I attended an amazing live concert at Mercdez Benz arena in Shanghai with my wife, Neila Steele, and my two boys, Eli and Tai. The incredibly talented musician, Ed Sheeran, performed solo for two straight hours, just him and his guitar before a sold out audience of 18,000 people.
Although I knew who Ed Sheeran was and was familiar with most of his music, I had a totally different appreciation for him and his art after seeing him perform live. I couldn’t help thinking about the fact that just as musicians perform their art, educators are artists in their own way as well.
I have always believed that as educators we all have our own very unique ways to approach the art of teaching. We are all distinctly different, no two teachers alike, and sometimes this reality if often overlooked. It is imperative that we always allow our own unique artistic flair of teaching come alive in our practice, but to root this practice in the most current evidence-based research.
Reflection has played a pivotal role in helping me to understand this fact and to honor who I am and what I bring to the profession in my own way, but this in itself isn’t enough for me to have the impact that I desire on my students. I have had several discussions over the past few months with a friend of mine, Dean Dudley, a senior lecturer from Macquarie University about my teaching practice and how to better understand certain approaches that I use in my classes.
Just as musicians all perform their music in unique ways, so too should teachers deliver their lessons in their own unique ways. That's what makes teaching such a great profession.
Teaching is an art, so embrace your art and what makes you distinctly different. Identify what it is that makes you different and let these differences flourish within your teaching practice. Be sure though to know thy impact and consider important and relevant research while on this journey. Have a great week of teaching folks.
The transformative work of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Daniel Pink
Over the past few years, I have been digging deeper and deeper into the work of Mihail Csikszentmihalyi and Daniel Pink and must say that it has played a profound role in shaping who I am as an educator. It has also helped to better shape the way that I deliver the learning experiences that I have my students engage in as well as the learning that takes place with the workshop participants that sit in on the PD sessions that I lead.
Much of what Daniel Pink has written about is based on the life work of Csikszentmihalyi and has to do with the concept of flow. Flow is considered to be the state where a person is so involved in what they are doing that all consciousness of time is lost. I'm sure that we have all experienced that place where we are totally absorbed in what we are doing. Csikszentmihalyi's life work revolved around and focused on finding out as much as he could about what causes states of flow in our personal and professional lives. To me there is nothing more profound or rewarding than being in that state of flow in my own personal life and when I am teaching or planning my teaching.
"Being in flow is the time when the mind and body work best together producing the best work possible, often times surpassing ones own expectations" ~Kaiser 2011
Personally for me, when I look at what being in flow means, it's what I want every single one of my students to experience when they are in my classes. It's where the best learning happens and the most progress is made, but helping our students to find this place of flow requires that we set up an environment that helps to identify where the best challenge lies for each and every one of them. Whether it is a student engrossed in a doing a painting, reading a book, writing a story, tinkering away with a project, or learning a new skill in PE, it's ultimately that special place and zone that we want all of our students to find themselves in. Is it possible? YES it is and I would argue that it is imperative to create teaching and learning environments that allow flow to flourish.
Over the past couple of weeks, I have had some in-depth discussions about my teaching practice with some researcher buddies such as Dean Dudley, Doug Gleddie, and Tim Fletcher. They are always there to provide me with their great insight and to add some valuable research to support my pursuit of knowledge related to my own teaching practice. Better understanding how to optimize the impact that I have on my students is a priority, so I'm delving deeper and deeper into exploring what flow means and how to better establish it in my PE classes and the workshops that I lead.
I'm trying to gauge what flow means to other educators and how it may look in their professional and personal life. So this is when I ask you all a favor. If you have time, and I promise that it will only take a few minutes. I'd really appreciate it if you could answer the questions in the comment box below. The questions are:
When do you feel most at flow in your own personal life? Can you describe the types of things you are doing and how it makes you feel?
When do you feel most in flow with your teaching? Can you describe what is happening and how it makes you feel?
Can you describe moments or give examples of when you feel that your students are in flow?
As I prepare for upcoming workshops, I want to learn more about how flow plays a part in other teachers' lives. I will be using the information but will not use any personal names, just the stories that are being shared in the comment box below. I thank you for taking the time to help me out with this. Thanks and have a wonderful week.
KAUST Faculty, Pedagogical Coach. Presenter & Workshop Leader.IB Educator. #RunYourLife podcast host.