We are into the second year of the “Learning Leader” project, and I have constructed the program differently this year as I continue to reflect on my practice. There have been some great posts from the participants (which is a component of the program) and there have been ones that have been the equivalent of a tweet. What I am impressed about is the vulnerability of teachers to be willing to put themselves out there and learn openly. I started off the sessions telling them that I am not going to give them a bunch of teaching strategies to work with their students. What I am going to do is help them focus on themselves as learners, which will give them the opportunity to find whatever they need. Teaching to fish, right?
As I read one of the posts, it struck a chord on how I have shifted my “teaching”:
When I first left the Central office after our first session of Learning Leader Yesterday, I was a little disappointed, and felt it was a little unstructured. But after a day of reflection, what George did with us yesterday was exactly what I did to my students when I got back. He made us curious and encouraged us to discover.
A few years ago, if you would have asked me what I would be doing in the classroom at 2:25 of that day, I could have pretty accurately told you where I would be at with students. In fact, if you would have asked me in September what I would be working on with students in February, I could have also told you that. Teachers would expected to have a course outline of where the classroom would be in the curriculum at what time of the year. If kids didn’t really understand, well, you would have to move on. Getting through the curriculum seemed more important than the kids actually learning.
I don’t do that anymore.
Learning should take on a life of it’s own and my focus is to push people to learn about what they are interested in and help guide them in the process. The process of learning, to me, is much more important than the product of learning. My workshops usually have 2-3 things that we are going to focus on in a day, but I don’t set times anymore because I don’t know where we will be. How could I accurately determine the learning of people if I have never met them? I am not totally there as a teacher, but I am growing and hopefully getting better.
The interesting thing is that many educators are still not comfortable with the seemingly unstructured setting of this type of work. It is often that they have to be fed the information because they have become accustomed to this. I remember starting in a very progressive school and trying to focus more on helping the students to “learn” as opposed to focusing on simply teaching them. They were in grade 7 and it was a struggle because they were so comfortable with “the old way”. It felt like they were saying, “just tell me what I need to know.” To be honest, on somedays that was the easier thing to do. But easy is not always right. It may feel right at this very moment, but later on, it will catch up, and the creativity, curiosity, and yearning to learn will be sucked right out of kids. I don’t want to be responsible for that. In fact, I want them to ask more questions and start figuring out how they can find answers and build their own connections. The connections THEY create in their learning will give them a stickiness factor, not the connections I create for them.
This video from Dan Brown, entitled “An Open Letter to Educators”, he shares some powerful thoughts:
Education isn’t about teaching facts. It is about stoking creativity and new ideas. It is not about teaching students to conform to the world as it is. It is about empowering students to change the world for the better.
If we are unable to experience that learning as teachers, how would we ever do that for our students? Hopefully I can continue to spark this with others as I experience it myself.