Believe IT Or Not, But Doing Nothing Can Help You Become A Better Teacher

Using the phrases “doing nothing” and “getting better” in the same sentence sounds like a mistake. But for teachers, it might just be as good as a magic trick.

Doing nothing means doing nothing outwardly. To others, it may look like you are sitting idle at your desk, staring into the wall, but deep inside, your brains are at work. And this may be some of the best work your brains are capable of producing. This technique of not doing anything outwardly might be a game changer in the world of quality instruction.

Teachers in the Workplace

Whether at elementary school level or a higher education level, teachers typically act in a certain way at their workplace. This involves lecturing, meeting with students, planning, assessing, data entry, conferencing or walking around the room to keep an eye on things. Even if the teachers are not busy, they feel the need to constantly ‘look busy’. This is due to the fear of a senior coordinator or the principal walking into the classroom while the teacher sits idly.

The truth, however, is something not many educationists are aware of: Teachers don’t spend enough time thinking, because they are too busy doing various things all the time.

Letting Things Happen Instead of Making Things Happen

In our society, action is always considered better than inaction. Inaction is considered another form of laziness or indifference. On the other hand, the go-getters, the action-oriented people, they are hailed as conquerors of the world. They win big, achieve great things and are generally more likable. Even though this sounds like a reasonable concept, more often than not, it ends up being misunderstood. Slow and carefully calculated moves (which require a lot of idle sitting and thinking) are much better than mindless but quick action.

This is something that teachers can make great use of. By spending a certain amount of time sitting idly, and thinking about random ideas, they might actually end up achieving more than they would if they intentionally focused their energies on trying to solve the problem at hand.

The Best Ideas

Our best ideas often come to mind when we are not actively trying to figure out a solution. It is hard to come up with great ideas on the spot and under pressure to deliver. Sometimes all you need is a mindless activity to help your mental juices flow. For instance, as a teacher you might feel burdened and tired around the time when the school year is drawing to a close. This time is therefore, not ideal to think of new ideas and innovative ways of teaching in the upcoming year. A better time would be summers, when your mind is relaxed and you are well-rested. This is the best time to randomly pick up ideas from your surroundings and experiences – ideas that you can then implement in the classroom to improve the overall learning experience for the students.

Sitting and thinking, instead of always trying to get something done, gives teachers the mental space to be creative and innovative. A good way to go about this would be to keep a small notebook handy and write down notes and observations in it whenever a good idea strikes. Good ideas can come from books, magazines, the daily news, internet, social media, blogs, your favorite place, a comment by someone, a situation in real life and so on. Jotting down the ideas as soon as they come will help you remember them when you need them later on.

Once you have written down a substantial number of ideas with a fresh and free mind, then you can start the actual brainstorming and thinking process. Force yourself to sit down and really work around your ideas to try and come up with a solution for the problem at hand.

Reflect and Evaluate

Quite often teachers just continue to follow the same, mundane routine every day, without giving much thought to reflection and evaluation. Reflection and evaluation are two very important tools for teachers. These tools enable them to actually think about what’s working and what isn’t. Most teachers are told to do this exercise on a regular basis, but since they rarely ever have time for it, it ends up getting ignored.

It is integral to a good education system, that teachers take out time to revisit their mission for their class and try and determine the pros and cons. This activity would help them figure out where they are lacking and where their students need some extra attention. Every year, at the start, teachers should write down their goals and vision for the class and keep this document in a handy place. Revisit this vision again and again throughout the year to determine whether you are on the right track or not. This reflection and evaluation process would not be possible if teachers don’t make time to just sit down and think about where they are supposed to be leading their students.

Another benefit of taking time out to think is that it can save you from trouble in the future. Plans that are well-thought out have little room for error. Therefore, taking out time when needed might save you from a lot of hassle. Not only would this principle help you in classroom planning, but it can also help you in tricky situations. For instance, if you pause and think for a moment before giving an angry response to a student’s misbehavior, or a parent’s disrespectful email, it might actually mean the difference between having a job and not having one.

Not Helping to Help

Students also benefit when teachers don’t do anything (sometimes). Especially at junior school levels, many teachers would immediately rush to save a student headed for failure. They don’t want the students to struggle or suffer for the right answers. However, failure and frustration can be an excellent teacher. Therefore, sometimes just stand back and do nothing. Just let the students know that they can do it on their own as well. Help them build their self-confidence by letting them take the lead.

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