You have just had a meeting with your principal and at the end of the meeting you have been assigned a subject that you do not have a strong skill set for.

What do you do?

This has and will continue to be a very difficult challenge for teachers. I think the first thing you do is to spend time familiarizing yourself with the appropriate content that is required of you. For this article’s purpose, let’s say that you are asked to teach physical education to Grade 3 students. You are not comfortable with gym, you do not feel that you have the skills to teach gym but yet you are given this assignment and must not only teach it, you must report on it.

The good news is that in these modern day times the world is at your fingertips. There is almost an endless amount of online material to support teachers. Your critical step is to understand what the BIG ideas are for your subject. You then do not have to invent the wheel over and over. The expertise of teachers around the world can assist you in the delivery of the content. For example I have very limited artistic skills, yet I am able to provide an enriching program to my students by finding activities, projects or lessons on how to teach my students the critical content they need to know (and I am aware of).

In an ideal world, schools would have specialists in areas such as art, gym and music. But as we know that is rarely the situation in Ontario. When I was asked to teach my own music I went to my principal and had a conversation with her about how limited my music skill set was. The end result of our meeting was that she knew my students would have a fun, enjoyable time in music. They would develop a positive attitude and great appreciation for music. I realize that type of working relationship is not always the norm.

It is a critical time for you to keep a healthy balance in your life. Knowing  the expected effort that will be needed to learn your new teaching content, you will need to reduce the extras that you typically carry out on a voluntary basis in your role. This is a key opportunity for you to demonstrate to your students that you are modeling learning is a lifelong journey. You do not have to be the expert on everything, nor is it possible to be such.

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2 thoughts on “An Unexpected Teaching Assignment?

  1. I am entering my eighth year of teaching and still have to expect the unexpected. My passion are soccer, learning French and teaching overseas.

  2. This is the situation I am in this year! I am teaching Music and Dance to K-5 and I am not trained in either. It was a great learning experience for me though, I found lesson plans on the web that I could understand and felt confident in presenting. The students seem to be having fun and we are learning together. I have also revisited lessons that I had as a child and use them with my students. I just think of Marge Simpson when she was going to earn money as a piano teacher, you only have to be one lesson ahead of the children!

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