Friday, May 22, 2009

Teaching with Emotional Intelligence

Bill and Ochan Powell came to the presentation that Chad and I did at EARCOS 2009. Bill was the principal of the International School of Tanganyika when I was a student there back in the 80s! It was great to meet up with them again and I was really flattered that they came to see what we were talking about. I have used a lot of the strategies that the Powells have outlined in their publications on differentiation and collaboration.

A segment of our presentation resonated with Bill and Ochan, and they spoke to us afterwards about making a small contribution to the book they're working on. They were interested in the positive dynamic that we had and how that dynamic set the scene for collaboration and excellent teaching.

Here's what I've written so far:

"Because of our successful teaching partnership, we have been able to push the boundaries of our own teaching, and push the boundaries of teaching in our school. Chad and I are extremely different people. We could easily have come to blows on many occasions, but we haven’t once. This is because we are very honest with each other, and also very realistic and aware of our own strengths and weaknesses.

Chad is a real action person – when he gets an idea, he does it. He likes to make things happen, and doesn’t have a huge amount of patience for theorizing, semantics and planning. He likes to get on with it! I am almost completely the opposite, I’m an ideas person, and that sounds great, but without a partnership with someone like Chad I would end up doing only a small fraction of those ideas. I’d forget most of them, or not have the drive to put them into action.

Sometimes I am sure Chad gets exasperated with me, and sometimes I get exasperated with him. But, we just laugh about it and move forward. We’ve done a lot of work on multiple intelligences and personality types with our students and, through developing our students’ awareness of themselves, we have unconsciously increased our awareness of who we are too. That awareness allows us the freedom to take risks in our teaching, to bounce off each other, to take a lead and to step forward when teaching together and to play on our strengths and cater for our weaknesses. The awareness of each other also acts as a reminder about why we act the way we act and why we make the decisions we make. When you understand your colleagues’ personalities and can see clearly how their personalities have a direct effect on their behaviour, you can work with them. Most of the problems I have seen between teaching partners are based on a lack of awareness of each other, and a failure to allow each other to use their strengths or back up each other’s weaknesses. Teachers differentiate for our students, but often forget to differentiate for themselves!"

Keep your eyes open for the release of their book, I have a feeling that emotional intelligences are going to be a crucial area of education in the near future. Being more aware of who our students are as people, as well as who we are, will become fundamental as we move rapidly away from teaching that is just about the delivery and retention of content.

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