After a plea on Twitter, the incredibly talented Ross McGill (@TeacherToolkit) suggested that I use idea 97 from his new book 100 Ideas for Secondary Teachers. If you are reading this then there is a high possibility that you a) follow him and b) have the book judging by the amount of tweets about both him and it. For the few people who don’t own a copy, Idea 97 asks teachers to test themselves, setting thirteen tasks to complete, preferably in friendly competition with another teacher.
I read the list feeling quite smug as I do some of them quite regularly anyway (i.e. no whiteboards for a lesson, no pens for a lesson). Some of them were not relevant in the school that I work in (we are not required to share learning objectives with students every lesson, for example so I have done that one too).
However, one struck me as particularly difficult. The challenge was to avoid saying common ‘teacher’ words such as right, OK, listen, now etc. I say these words all the time. I have videoed my teaching before and became irritated with the amount of times I say ‘right,’ in a lesson so I cannot imagine how irritated my students must be after listening to it lesson upon lesson. I decided that I would try to avoid these words for the duration of the five lessons that I had in the day.
Did it work? No. I was rubbish at this and kept saying the ‘forbidden’ words without thinking. I made the students aware of the challenge and they did point out (perhaps a bit too enthusiastically) whenever I said one of the words so
- I was certainly more mindful of the language I was using which made me think about the way I phrase explanations and questions. This was certainly a good learning point.
- It was nice to challenge myself.
- It is really hard!
- I kept focusing on the words which then sometimes distracted me from actually teaching students. I don’t think this was the idea behind it…
Would I do it again? No. However, I will be more mindful of my language and how I am communicating when offering explanations or phrasing questions. I do encourage people to give it a go. I also encourage people to try some of the other ideas on the list of 13 that @TeacherToolkit provides!