Imagine a class full of teenagers

Imagine a class of teenagers …

This is how Daniel Pennac’sbook begins. He describes so well a class full of teenagers that you cannot avoid smiling because despite the years “things remain the same”. Because this is what adolescence is. Any educator -teacher, parent- whose turn it is to deal with this beautiful period of life, knows the challenge he faces.

Books say that adolescence is when humankind is facing great ideals, big courage andhuge creativity … those boys and girls, have before them the chances of being anything they want or dream of.

sleeping in class
Reality comes instead when the teacher enters the class and finds the students grouped in two teams: those that are “knocked down” on the desks and those that are jumping and screaming over the same desks wielding the chairs over their heads. Order is required for the exalted ones to be seated, while a giggling sound, that is going to be there during the entire class, must be ignored.

And then, this incredible conductor and lion tamer and snake charmer who is the teacher, has to achieve the following challenges: impose a minimum of calm so they can go over the contents of the class, keep them quiet but not so much that everyone joins the ones “collapsed on the tables “, and ignoring the giggles that spring up at the most unexpected moments of the class, keep the students interested and involved in the topic while finally trying to make them drivers of their own learning.This is when the teacher becomes a harri – jasotzaileak , the Basque phenomenal athlete who lifts stones on his shoulder as if nothing is happening .

Here’s the key point: while the teacher with his orchestra conductor’s baton keeps interestedthose who are dozing and calm to those who are fighting, with the other hand assumes that incredible weight.The weight of involving the students in their own learning.

A degree, two masters and a doctorate is what is required to be a good high school teacher.

A degree in lion taming.

This degree teaches you that you cannot approach lions directly and with their weapons. It teaches you that if the lion roars, do not try to return a roar: the roar of teachers are ridiculous and cause the opposite effect. A direct look in the eyes, saying gently the name of the roaring lion usually has an immediate effect.There are those who lurk at the end of the class ready to jump on the teacher’s jugular shouting “this contradicts what you have just explained ! ” Stay serene, smile and reply slowly “This is wonderful! I’m delighted that you have realized it.Look, this is because such and such is a very good observation; thank you for being helpful and assisting the development of the class” Those paying attention, only to see if we teachers commit an error, are at least paying attention! And they have joined the orchestra.

A Masters in Snake charming.
 This charmer should be a good professional because using the technique of novice makes the teacher lose much time and energy: it is not a good idea to call out loud by his/her name the student who is sleeping. Because it will make him startle, more or less stiffly, but when you stop looking at him he suddenly falls back on the table. Instead, use the good technique of snake charmers: the teacher attracts the attention of the collapsed “by ear”. Hearing is the last sense to be lost –so the teacher must excite curiosity for the “music being played “. Almost without realizing it the “collapsed” is paying attention, gets the gift of words, smiles and usually says something like: “it’s true! That happened to me once! “Or something like that. But we already have it in the pot. Now let him look at the baton and join the orchestra.
A master in conducting.
 Inma Shara, what a woman! With soft hand gestures, sometimes of just one finger, she makes every member of the orchestra produce a unique sound. Different instruments participate, but each in its time and in the right tone and volume. In class we have a full orquestra: full choir, percussion, string and wind. There are those that are quick, those that think that they are quick, the slower ones , those who intuit , those that want to be heard and make the cymbals sound blaring … but at the wrong time. And then the teacher with his baton (which is actually a magic wand) tries to serve all, and to let them have their space on the playing field.
Doctorate in weightlifting.
And if so far the class session has not been sufficiently exhausting, there is still the best part of it to come!. It’s like the circus: “let’s do the most difficult!”. The moment of truth: to convey the teachings of our teacher’s brain to the students’. All that we have learned with much time and effort we want to give it gently and smoothly to our students. We want to give them that gift.

There are many obsolete methodologies such as “spare the rod and spoil the child”, “the lecture”  -yes, that one with the yellowish notes  where snakes sleep  and lions roar-, or“open the book and highlight the following paragraphs”, and then “memorize”. None of those counts as a single or central methodology. Sometimes there is a need to memorize or sometimes the teacher has to indicate a book or a paragraph for students to study, sometimes the teachers must even give away a piece of their lives, or share their personal experiences.

… But what a weightlifter has to do, is to make the student himself the driver of his own education .

There are days when I leave the classroom happy because there were no lions to tame or snakes to charm, and I have spent the time and effort in conducting and weight lifting. Then there are days when I only manage to complete two runs and end up exhausted!

What is not yet quite understandable is why there are not -at the doors of schools and universities where we teach- hundreds of admiring fans howling: “How can you teachers do that wonder? How much do they pay you for this?  What awards are you receiving? What Nobel prizes are waiting for you? “

Those fans will be surprised to listen to the imaginary answer: “Oh!, Thanks,  it’s nothing really.  I do it just for the enjoyment of teaching, for the enjoyment of a job well-done: because we have neither large salaries nor awards?. I do it because, as Nelson Mandela says,

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world 



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