Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Unschooling My Job

I have never had a passion for grammar. In fact, I find it extremely boring. I felt the same way when I was in school and remember dreading the times we would study grammar exclusively. As a 5th grade teacher I never taught grammar on its own, but instead took problem areas my students were facing in their writing and focused on those issues instead in mini lessons. I now teach English to adult students from all over the world who are learning English. For the past ten years when I have taught grammar to adults, it has only been a portion of what I teach, so I haven't minded because I love teaching conversation, writing, and listening. However, in October I added a teaching position to my resume at a new school. At this school I am exclusively the grammar teacher. My students come to me for grammar and go to another teacher for projects.

The first few months I felt very frustrated because the students at this school are also at a higher English level than the students at my first school which meant I needed to know more grammar rules than I previously knew. I didn't feel like I was doing a good job teaching and felt awkward. Then it hit me. It isn't about me knowing everything about grammar because I will never be one to remember the rules. It doesn't fit my personality at all. Some people love rules, not me. What I decided to do was use the same philosophy of learning on my students as I do with my kids - if you want to learn this, than do it!  I will help guide you, but really, it is up to you. I started putting students in groups and they had to figure out the grammar lesson for the day and then report back to the class on their findings. They loved it! They asked questions here and there but overall they were perfectly fine working in groups and figuring out what they needed to learn. In fact, I think they may learn it better when working together and they have fun at the same time. Who wants to sit and listen to me talk at the board all evening? Yuck!  The other benefit I found from allowing them to work in groups is I could access quicker what they already knew so we didn't need to spend a ton of time on that piece of grammar.  We could move on or stay longer on if needed.

My recent experience as a teacher has reminded me of a couple of good things I have learned through unschooling my own kids. First, if we really want to learn something, we will. Second, I finally understand my learning style and although some people thrive on knowing all the rules to grammar, I will never be that person. Why keep trying to be something I am not? This has been the number one lesson I have learned by unschooling my kids.  Third, I can only be the type of person I am and when I follow who I am rather than try to fit the mold of what others do (generally grammar is more lecture than experimentation and I have never been that type of teacher) things turn out exactly the way they should.

I find that although I still don't love grammar, I have found a comfortable place for myself. At midterm the student evaluations of me were really high which tells me they like the way I am doing things. Finding my comfort zone makes going to work that much easier and that much more enjoyable.

When people ask me about unschooling, I often say we follow a child led education learning from life. In this situation, that is exactly what I did. Unschooling doesn't just exist within the confines of our home or just for my children. We are all constantly learning and constantly trying to figure out the best route for our unique personalities. I am glad I unschooled my way through this situation