Know the content and how to teach it

As a teacher it is important to have in depth knowledge of the content that I teach regardless of the fact that I am likely not to teach it to the full depth of my knowledge, a complex understanding of my subject means that I am confident to teach in an open ended way where I am not daunted by a more explorative approach to the subject.

On the other hand there will inevitably be questions that my students ask that I may not know. I take this as an opportunity to research a possible answer together and to open up the idea that learning is about questioning things rather than coming to a definitive answer, it is about encouraging enquiry and looking for creative solutions to problem solving.

In the context of my music classes, using a simple West African choral song, within minutes I was able to facilitate a musical collaboration involving my entire class where by they, listening in to each other and working as a group sang in three part harmony alongside movement and underpinning rhythm.

Although the song they learned was complex, I was able to give them the information they needed to sing it without overwhelming them and able to reveal the next level of complexity in the song as it became useful to them.

The solidity of my knowledge of the content - reading music and how to create it together, as well as years of vocal training and group facilitation allowed me to lead the class with confidence and in depth understanding carefully choosing what information to teach and how to teach at increasing levels of complexity as understanding grows.