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5 Steps to Improving Your Teaching Skills This Summer

5 Steps to Improving Your Teaching Skills This SummerWhen I first watched this TEDx Talk a while back, I immediately saw the implications for teachers…. and not only for Art teachers. I believe any teacher of any grade or subject will benefit from following these steps. For that matter, anyone who wants to get better at anything could apply this strategy. Maybe that’s why this TEDx Talk is titled, “How to Get Better at the Things You Care About”.

In this short, insightful talk, learning expert Eduardo Bricñeo explains that we operate between two basic “zones” – the “learning zone” and the “performance zone”. He describes how to achieve high performance by alternating between these two zones.

The problem is that once we become comfortable in our profession, our performance tends to plateau as we spend most of our time just “performing”…. trying to do our best in activities we’re already pretty good at. We play it safe rather than innovate and try new things. We become reluctant to take risks because the stakes are high and mistakes come with negative consequences. In this way, the performance zone can hinder our growth.

In contrast, time spent in the learning zone allows us to focus on deliberate practice in a given area when the stakes are not so high and mistakes are not only expected but also valued for what we learn from them. In his talk, Bricñeo gives a great example of how Beyoncé uses both the learning zone and the performance zone to continually improve her shows.

As teachers, many of us enjoy a lighter schedule in the summer. So take advantage of this opportunity to spend some extra time in the learning zone! Follow these steps to grow your skills:

  1. Have a “growth mindset”. Believe that you can learn, improve, and grow.
  2. Ask yourself what you want to get better at. Maybe it’s classroom management, learning to use a new medium, introducing a new technology, or improving communication with parents. Choose a specific skill you care about.
  3. Brainstorm ideas for how you can improve. Will you read, find a mentor, role play, take a class, watch tutorials online, attend a conference, or all of the above?
  4. Practice what you want to learn in a low-stakes setting where the consequence of making mistakes is not significant. Examine your mistakes and learn from them.
  5. Finally, take what you’ve learned back to your classroom and put it into practice in the performance zone. Then solicit feedback and reflect. Identify what to focus on the next time you’re in the learning zone.

Build your skills in the learning zone. Apply your new skills in the performance zone. Reflect. Repeat.

Being conscious of which zone you’re operating in will help you maintain a spiral of ever increasing performance. Always have something you’re working to improve and you’ll not only advance your own skills, but you’ll be modeling ongoing learning for your students…. no matter what subject you teach!

Watch Eduardo Bricñeo’s inspiring 12 minute TEDx Talk here.

What will you work on the next time you’re in the learning zone?

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