The Inner Game of Teaching

This chapter focuses on a teacher’s “inner and outer world” and this impacts the teacher’s behavior as well as student-teacher relationships (Marzano & Marzano 2010, p. 345).  The authors seem to focus on control of emotion and thoughts, because it is that emotion that drives behavior. I agree with Marzano and Marzano (2010) when they propose that the “basic operating principals” will greatly influence a teachers approach to their position (p. 348). If a teacher believes that students are inherently prone to misbehavior, then this will become evident in their relationship with the students. From my experience, students quickly see this type of teacher as a disciplinarian rather than someone who wants to help them. On the other hand, when a teacher approaches students believing that they can reach high standards and expectations then this once again becomes clear in their positive relationship.

Marzano and Marzano’s (2010) breakdown of interpreting a “presenting event” seemed at first obvious, and I assumed that this should be second nature. However, the more that I sat with the passage, the more that I realized that these questions are not always the first thing that comes to my mind. In my first year of teaching when I found interruptions in the classroom, I at times asked myself other questions. What would the other teachers do? What does the student need? What would the student’s parents want my reaction to be? Although these are all good questions, most of them are based in the opinions of others. These opinions could be subjective or situational and not always the best query for what I needed. Marzano and Marzano (2010) suggest asking the following questions: “1. What is it? 2. Is it positive or negative? 3. How important is it? 4 How do I feel about it?” (p. 350).  The questions are simply yet powerful. This was a light bulb moment for me, as a remembered countless times where I had to sift through a long list of questions in my mind and quickly come up with a good reaction to student behavior. I can now have this short list that I consistently refer back to until it becomes second nature.

For a teacher to succeed in the inner game of teaching, Marzano and Marzano (2010) focus on the teacher being perceptive of their goals and interpretation of classroom events. Teachers need to constantly be thinking ahead of possible outcomes and looking for avenues to reach their goals. This practice comes from a teacher’s ability to think on their feet and a readiness for whatever might come their way. After reading through the elements of introspection, it is clear that this running commentary of important questions takes practice. I know that many people already have this gift of simultaneously perceiving, thinking and decision-making. At the same time, I wonder is this skill something that can also be developed?

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6 thoughts on “The Inner Game of Teaching

  1. I agree that teachers need to think ahead of possible outcomes; not only for academics miscues but also for behaviors. Behaviors can disrupt an entire class or day, depending on the severity. There are times when a teacher is teaching and a student has an outburst. If the teacher does not have a plan, for example, a room clear, this could surely interfere with learning. Having a plan in place for the what if can often prevent missing class time.

  2. I like how you ended your post. Some people definitely have a skill when it comes to thinking on their feet and forming appropriate decisions. To answer your question, I think that we can improve in this area. I feel that the more we are exposed to situations that cause us to think and form quick decisions the more comfortable we will get at it. Remember from our earlier reading, that it takes about 10 years to master something. So 10 years from now, hopefully we will all be able to do this effectively in our classrooms!

  3. Joanna, I appreciate your analysis because I had a difficult time sinking my teeth into this article. I like how you juxtaposed the questions you tended to think about alongside the one suggested by Marzano. As someone whose learning style thrives on examples, your post made the intent of the article quite clear.

  4. HI Joanna,

    Forgive me, but I took this in a totally different direction. I might be wrong, as I don’t have my book in front of me, but I understood the 4 questions we ask to not be ‘questions’ in the traditional sense. Rather, these questions were really processes that fired in our brain every time we were presented with a new situation, and our response (script) came from our brain evaluating and answers these questions on a rapid and largely unconscious level.

    That is why Marzano sounds like he is borderline celebrating the human brain when he points out that in understanding this process we find a sudden and miraculous ability to affect change within it.

    When I think about things in this way I suddenly see why becoming Master Teachers will take a decade.

  5. As you consider your first teaching experiences, are you able to see how this inner game played itself out? What were the reactions that you went through in various situations? Given this, how will you learn from these experiences in order to develop further as a teacher this year? I look forward to following your growth as the internship continues.

  6. Pingback: Reflective Response: The Inner Game Of Teaching | joannakharmon

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