Seeding a Thought with Unlimited Possibilities – A Critical Moment in My Teaching

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A critical moment in teaching is a moment during the process of teaching that a teacher’s mental model about teaching and learning is completely changed. Such critical moment doesn’t come often. But when it does, it will dramatically transform a teacher’s teaching and learning practices. Two of such critical moments happened to me in my course of teaching in RC4. Both of which in this course. The first one happened in AY16/17 semester 2 and the second one happened this semester.

The first critical moment was quite nicely documented and reflected upon here. The incident was about how I have tried to teach my Senior Seminar students on the use of connection circle in their modelling activities and the learning activity turned out to be rather ineffective. I was clueless about it’s ineffectiveness until I started to listen to my students. The incident taught me the importance of constantly listening to my students. It taught me that the best teaching is when you are not speaking, but intently listening to my students for cues that provide evidence of their learning.

This blog is about the second critical moment that happened to me in the middle of this semester before the term break.

It was week 6. I was contemplating whether should I proceed to get my students to enact a role play exercise that I have designed to help them learn about how to apply group model building strategies and to hone their interviewing skills. According to the feedback I have received from past semester’s students, several told me that it wasn’t very effective in helping them learn and that the activity could probably be skipped. I struggled with my students’ suggestion largely because I knew the potentials of the activity, but I am not too sure how to deliver it more effectively. Plus, even if I would like to replace it, I struggled to come up with something meaningful to my students’ learning.

As if divinity has heard my struggle, Chenhui (one of my students in my previous semester class) arranged to have breakfast with me. She wanted to share with me her summer adventure to USA. You may wonder how does this relate to my struggles. To explain this, you need to learn a little bit more about Chenhui.

Chenhui was a shy girl when she was my student in my JS in AY16/17 semester 1. She took my SS in the following semester. She told me that she was inspired by me throughout our 1 years of interaction. And during last year summer break, she garnered all her courage to get out of your comfort zone and embarked on a USA internship summer programme organized by NUS. For a very shy girl, that took an enormous dose of courage and I am of course extremely proud of her.

We were meeting up over breakfast because I was excited and wanted to listen to her story.

During the sharing, Chenhui told me that one of the key reasons why she has developed the courage to go out of her shyness and faced the challenging world was because of the roleplay exercise that she has experienced in my SS class. In that exercise, she told me that she realized how her shyness has been limiting her potentials and she felt that the safe and conducive roleplay exercise has allowed her to express herself fluently with little fear. During the course of the activity, it dawned on her that she actually has the ability to overcome this shyness in her. A seed planted during the roleplay exercise has now blossomed. It has led to her decision to embark on her USA internship summer programme alone. And this in turns has helped her develop strong confidence in her interpersonal and communication skills. Who would have thought that the learning activity that I have designed has such unforeseeable and impactful result to a student!

It was during the sharing that it solidified my belief that for as long as I have one student who will become like Chenhui, I should continue to perfect my roleplay exercise. It taught me to look beyond just the content and knowledge that I wish to impart to my students through the designed learning activities and think about the potentials of creating a conducive environment that can help them develop the courage and willingness to going out of their comfort zone especially the introverts. Thanks to Chenhui, I am applying this chain of thoughts in every single teaching and learning activities that I tried to design for my students.

A quote from Sean Junkins comes into my mind as I reflected upon this critical incident.

I am inspired by Chenhui and I am so proud of your achievement.

Jenson

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