Why Sharing is Caring (but only if there’s something in it for you)

I’ve been talking to teachers a lot recently about sharing, and I’ll ask you what I’ve been asking them:

What was the last thing you shared at school?

Are you thinking about a resource right now? Or a topic plan?

You are not alone.

Most of the teachers I spoke to cited resources or planning documents as things they have ‘shared’. Which is lovely, and I’m sure the poor soul who was sweating it over how to teach Vikings next term was extremely grateful you came along, but let me ask you this:

What did you get out of that deal?

They asked, you gave. They’re now a step forward and you are right where you started. Now, I know in terms of karma, and you know, being a decent human being and all, one shouldn’t automatically expect something in return when one shares. But really, what’s in it for you?

Let’s look a bit closer at the idea that sharing = giving people stuff (resources, planners, biscuits).

Imagine you have a child in your class who is struggling with a problem in Maths. You know he has the skills and knowledge to solve the problem, because you have taught him what he needs to know. He now needs to apply it. He comes to tell you he is ‘stuck’ and asks for your help.

What do you do?

Do you tell him the answer?

I certainly wouldn’t!

Because he doesn’t need that from me. He can get there himself.

Giving him the solution is robbing him of the chance to discover it for himself. It’s shutting down learning. It’s ensuring he has no ownership of his learning and it sends the message that as long as the right answer (i.e., my answer) is reached, the goal has been achieved. In short, it’s rubbish teaching.

So instead of telling him the answer, I ask him to tell me what his plan is for solving the problem, based on what he has learned so far. Then I share with him how I might go about starting the problem, explain what I’ve tried before that’s worked for me. I encourage him to have a go and try the next bit and let me know how he’s getting on.

Now, if you go with the notion that sharing = giving people stuff, I should have just shared the answer with him; after all, he asked for my help.

But I didn’t.

Instead, we talked about his practice and mine, linked it to his skills and knowledge and then he took the next step that was right for him. Maybe his answer will still be wrong at the end, but think of the learning that will then result!

Now let’s imagine I am the teacher in the room next door to yours, and I’m freaking out about having to teach Vikings to P3. I am feeling overwhelmed. I am faced with something new. I have planned topics before, so I have the skills and knowledge that I need to plan this one, but for whatever reason, it’s just not happening.

What do you do? You are going to hand me your Vikings plan aren’t you? Because sharing = giving people stuff. Great! Means I can go home early! Admittedly, it does mean I’m probably not going to think through as thoroughly as I should how to tailor this topic to my learners. I’m probably not going to consider all the practicalities and pitfalls involved in each planned learning activity. And I suppose there is the chance I might miss the point when it comes to assessing all this because I will be using your thinking instead of mine, but hey, still, early finish!

Think about this ‘sharing’- have you really helped me here? Or have you just given me an easy option? And what did you get out of it?

I speak to lots of teachers that are tired of sharing in this way. They are fed up of handing over their stuff all the time, and frankly I don’t blame them.

So let’s consider another definition of sharing:

Sharing = giving people you

Don’t freak out. I don’t mean all of you. Just a little bit. Just a glimpse into your thinking, your motivation, why you do things the way you do.

Instead of giving me your topic plan, ask me what’s worrying me about planning my own. Remind me of the ones I’ve planned already. Point me towards good stuff you’ve used and tried before and tell me what are the important things you always keep in mind when you are planning. Encourage me to have a go at it and come and have a chat with you and share with you what I’ve done.

In other words- talk about your practice and mine, link it to my skills and knowledge and then enable me to take the next step that’s right for me.

That’s real sharing. And guess what? There’s actually something in it for you. This isn’t a deficit model of give stuff, get nothing. There are only winners in this share model and here’s why:

Sharing what you do helps you see what you do more clearly.

E M Forster is often quoted as having said ‘How do I know what I think until I see what I say?’ Talking about what you do helps you to consider what’s important in your own practice, helps you see more clearly the path you have carved yourself, the values you have stuck to and been guided by.

When you share yourself, everybody wins.

So here’s my challenge to you:

Stop sharing stuff. Share yourself.

If you do, others will follow.

Imagine how it would feel if next time you were ‘stuck’, someone took half an hour to talk to you about how they’d do it, what works for them and why. Encouraged you to find your own way through, with their support?

To me that’s a way better use of my time than handing over all my hard work and thinking on a silver platter. No feeling of resentment. No feeling of giving all the time and getting nothing back.

So pay it forward. Share yourself. Enable others to move their own thinking on by just being you.

Because this is real sharing that will result in amazing professional dialogue about what really matters. It is not one person’s hard work handed around for an easy life and used without thought or adaptation. We, as a profession are better than that. We are worth more.

It is sharing as an acknowledgement that we are all at different places in our knowledge, skills and understanding and that what works for me might not work for you. It is sharing that abhors a vacuum; it encourages rich, complex debate and exploration of our own values and motivations as we share with others what matters to us most. It is sharing that shows you care about helping others fulfil their potential.

Start sharing yourself and see what happens. I’m right there with you.


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