As A Career Changer, How Do You Plan To Bring Your Previous Work Experience Into The Classroom? By Tzvetanka Petrova

I never realised how relevant my prior work experience was to teaching until I started my training year. I did work with people in a professional environment, I did put together the occasional PowerPoint, and I sometimes presented to a wider audience, but never worked with children and was never in front of an audience that found its natural equilibrium in a state of disorder. However, in thinking about my prior experience, I never thought about questioning. 

I have always believed, and had been repeatedly told, that teachers spend most of their time talking, and that was never my forte. But I love my subject, I love children and all I wanted was help them be a better version of themselves, so I thought I could potentially make a respectable teacher. I was worried and not particularly convinced that my experience would be helpful as it hardly seemed related.  

However, I have recently realised that it could not have been more relevant. I now know that teachers do not spend most of their time talking. A good teacher spends most of the day asking questions. And this is exactly what I did for 20 years.  

An effective teacher plans her questions carefully. She aims to focus on open ended questions and meticulously chooses her language to promote thinking, encourage participation and inspire discussion. She makes sure her questions welcome mistakes, encourage reasoning, and create an environment where students build mind-maps rather than look for an answer.  

Similarly, the most fundamental part of my job for the past 20 years, as an investment research analyst and PM, was planning questions: probing questions on investment returns and markets performance, open questions on investment processes, divergent questions on views about the economy, and rhetorical questions in presenting an argument and inviting discussion.  

According to the Harvard Business Review a great question should demonstrate that you are thoroughly prepared for the conversation. In business this means doing research and reading through documents, notes from previous conversations, speaking to colleagues and associates. In teaching this means the same – preparing for a lesson by reading textbooks, reviewing prior knowledge and misconceptions, speaking to colleagues, and researching resources.  

A great question invites people to broaden their thinking, and thus challenges their beliefs. In both business and the classroom, these are the best questions - questions that we remember because they made us doubt ourselves. They shake the certainty in our knowledge, and send our brains into a state of disequilibrium, which Piaget, in his theory of cognitive development, would argue leads to assimilation of knowledge. The best questions provoke us to question what we know and once we rebuild that, we emerge a better version of ourselves.  

By Tzvetanka Petrova 



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