He who dares to teach must never cease to learn.
– Unknown source
Wise words, and thank you for sharing them on Twitter, Gerald! Reading them made me think a bit closely about what ‘ongoing learning’ means.
Teachers and coaches are students too. Just because someone has a degree in singing and a teaching certificate, is certified in a certain method, has been teaching for an X amount of years, has an impressive singing career, or is teaching at a prestigious school, does not mean they are done with learning.
Why is ongoing learning important?
The obvious answer that comes to my mind is: because science, research and pedagogy keep evolving – and so does the industry. In order for teaching to make any sense, teachers and coaches need to keep up to date with the major issues and trends in the industry and field in which they are specialized. But there is more to learning than just staying up to date.
Learning does not only deepen our knowledge and give us an opportunity to develop our skills, it also gives us a possibility to reflect on our own pedagogy and teaching philosophy.
Perhaps we will get confirmation on things we find important. Perhaps we will discover a new angle for approaching a certain teaching challenge. It might be that we learn a new way to explain something. It does not mean the ‘new’ things have to replace everything we did until now, neither does discovering new things automatically mean we were ‘wrong’ before.
Perhaps we will encounter theories, approaches and thoughts that we disagree with. That gives us again the opportunity to reflect on our own teaching, and why we approach certain things in a certain way. Ongoing reflection is needed in order to form our own teaching philosophies.
Ongoing learning helps us understand our strengths and weaknesses. Professional strengths and weaknesses, including knowledge and mastery of subject that is being taught, pedagogical skills, ability to adapt in teaching situations (for example one-on-one versus teaching groups), and so on. But also personal strengths and weaknesses, including listening, thinking and communication skills, empathic skills, and awareness of how our own beliefs, attitudes, and acts affect others. Because in teaching, our personal skills count as much as our professional skills.
How do we keep learning?
- By reading, attending workshops, and studying. Ongoing learning requires being interested in new ideas and approaches, and staying in dialogue with teachers of other methods and techniques than the one we teach.
- By staying in dialogue with other singing teachers, and with other teachers and coaches in general. A singing teacher can, for example, learn a great deal about performance from a teacher in another field of music or performing arts. But we can also learn a great deal about the creative process from other creative artists, about pedagogy from teachers and educators in completely different fields, or about communication from for example an NLP coach.
- By seeking feedback from our clients, students, colleagues and mentors. This includes feedback and evaluation on our work and services, supervision and intervision.
- By doing, reflecting, adjusting, and doing again. Every teaching situation is a new learning situation.
I will wrap up my thoughts for today by returning to Gerald and his tweets. For me, communicating with other teachers, coaches and singers (on Twitter and outside of it) is one way of learning. Gerald’s tweet about ongoing learning released a whole trail of thoughts in me. Now, I am curious to hear what kind of thoughts you have on ongoing learning, and what kind of additions you have to my trail of thoughts!