Medium 9780990345831

Managing the Inner World of Teaching

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Cultivate a positive mindset, and choose productive actions by examining your emotions and interpretations in the classroom. By investigating three management phases—awareness, analysis, and choice—teachers can become mindful of factors that influence their interactions with students and learn a process for ensuring positive outcomes. You’ll gain concrete strategies and activities that enhance classroom practice and impact student learning.

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6 Chapters

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Chapter 1

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It is a widely accepted fact that what teachers do in their classrooms can have a substantial effect on the learning of their students. If teachers engage in specific behaviors and employ specific strategies, their students tend to learn better than if they do not use those strategies. Consider the strategy of activating prior knowledge: if teachers help students recall and discuss what they already know about a topic before presenting new information regarding that topic, students tend to learn that information more readily. This applies to other strategies as well: if teachers help students generate graphic representations for what they are studying, they tend to learn the content better; if teachers expose students to content multiple times, they tend to learn it better; and so on.

There is a vast research and theory base around the teacher behaviors and instructional strategies that show promise in enhancing students’ learning. Reviews of such behaviors and strategies have been chronicled in a number of books, such as the following:

 

Chapter 2

ePub

The more we understand the workings of the human mind, the more effectively we can manage the inner world. In this chapter, we address four topics that provide a sound basis for understanding and executing the management phases and questions introduced in chapter 1: (1) the power of emotions, (2) the nature of interpretation, (3) scripts, and (4) the importance of the self-system.

There is a good reason why the first question one asks when managing the inner world is: What emotions am I experiencing right now? It is because emotions are powerful determiners of both thought and behavior. To illustrate the relationship between emotions, thought, and behavior, Jean Piaget (1964) used the analogy of gasoline to an engine. Affect (that is, emotion) is like the gasoline that fuels the engine; affect fuels the process of human thought. Piaget further noted that thought and emotion are inseparable: “There are not two developments, one cognitive and the other affective, two separate psychic functions, nor are there two kinds of objects: all objects are simultaneously cognitive and affective” (p. 39).

 

Chapter 3

ePub

Managing the inner world is a skill that requires deliberate practice over an extended period of time. We can garner such practice in a variety of ways including retrospective practice, mental rehearsal, and real-time practice. We begin with retrospective practice.

To practice managing the inner world retrospectively, we begin by identifying situations that typically elicit strong negative emotions. Up until this point, we have used the term situations in a relatively loose manner. Here, we note that there are three types of situations we should consider when engaging in retrospective practice: people, events, and tasks.

To illustrate retrospective practice regarding people at school, consider a teacher who retrospectively thinks about the students in her class. She begins by asking herself which of her students typically elicits a negative emotional response. She realizes that she experiences anger when she interacts with one student, Maria. It isn’t the type of anger that makes her want to lash out at Maria. Rather, it is a mild but recurring feeling of irritation that colors all interactions with her. The second question the teacher asks focuses on her interpretation of Maria. In response to this focus, the teacher realizes she usually interprets Maria’s behavior as disrespectful to her. On further consideration, the teacher realizes that this interpretation challenges her own sense of self-esteem; if Maria does not respect her, are there other students who feel the same way? This represents the awareness phase of the management process. She is now cognizant of her reaction to Maria.

 

Chapter 4

ePub

In some ways, managing the inner world opens Pandora’s box as we become more and more curious about how the human mind works. In chapter 2, we addressed four topics that provided a grounding in the rudiments of the inner world. Those topics were (1) the power of emotions, (2) the nature of interpretation, (3) scripts, and (4) the importance of the self-system. This chapter addresses three other topics that provide a deeper understanding of the workings of the human mind: (1) mindfulness, (2) negative thinking, and (3) positive thinking.

In simple terms, mindfulness is being aware of what we are thinking about at a given moment. We might say that mindfulness is a precondition for managing the inner world. By definition, mindfulness involves a heightened state of consciousness. Understanding consciousness starts by understanding how three types of memory interact.

Recall from figure 1.1 (page 6) in chapter 1 that the inner world can be described in terms of the information that is occupying a teacher’s working memory at any point in time. It is best to think of our working memory as one of three types of memory that interact with one another: (1) sensory memory, (2) working memory, and (3) permanent memory. The interaction of these three kinds of memory with the outside world is depicted in figure 4.1.

 

Chapter 5

ePub

One obvious conclusion about managing the inner world of teaching is that it requires us to work on ourselves, especially when we consider how easy it is to be affected by the types of negative thinking described in chapter 4. By definition, examining our patterns of thought during specific incidents in school leads to examination of how we approach life in general. In this chapter, we address some ways we can cultivate a healthier psychological lifestyle. We address four topics: (1) performing a self-audit of our overall mental state, (2) using the management process in our daily lives, (3) cultivating satisfaction, and (4) identifying and living from our ideals.

To begin working on ourselves, it is useful to examine our overall mental health. We might think of such activity as a self-audit we use to diagnose areas in our life of strength and areas of concern. To this end, it is useful to consult figure 5.1 (page 80). It depicts a continuum of mental health with five levels moving from nonfunctional to superior functioning. The continuum is designed to provide a frame of reference as to our overall mental health. It is important to note that figure 5.1 should not be thought of as an absolute classification system. Rather, while examining ourselves in reference to the continuum, we will find that we operate at different levels in different aspects of our lives. As Marzano and his colleagues (2005) noted:

 

Chapter 6

ePub

The previous chapters detailed what teachers should know about the inner workings of their self-systems so that they might function more purposefully and effectively in their professional and personal lives. In addition to understanding the self-system for their own edification, teachers can use this understanding to enhance the lives of their students. This chapter addresses strategies and activities to this end. More pointedly, it addresses how to teach in such a way as to honor the self-system of each student who comes under our tutelage. With this perspective in mind, we consider the six levels of goals and desired states that constitute the self-system.

Levels 1 and 2 of the hierarchy of goals and desired states deal with physiological comfort and safety, respectively. As we have seen, if students don’t have physiological comfort and feel safe, they will not be able to concentrate in class. Rather, their attention and energy will be focused on getting their basic needs met.

 



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