When new initiatives roll out for education, you may hear some pushback from parents saying, “I do not want my child to be a guinea pig for this new initiative.” In some ways, I agree with this statement. The “guinea pig” should be the educator, acting as learner first, teacher second. How do we truly understand any initiative in our classrooms, unless we go from the perspective of the learner first? Master teacher does not happen without becoming a master learner.
I have worked with Winnipeg School Division this past year, focusing on “Innovative Teaching, Learning and Leadership”, with the focus on the educators as learners first. The reality is that some will dig deeper into their own learning than others, but I have been amazed by some of their reflections shared through this year and our collaborative blog (I wrote about this process in the post titled, “5 Reasons To Have a Collaborative Blog“), and as I go through some of the educator reflections, I am amazed by what some of them are sharing (emphasis is mine on the following quotes and you click on the teacher’s name for the full post in it’s entirety):
“What stood out to us after reading the book and spending the day with George was how we currently use the technology in our classroom. Based on our reflections and conversations with colleagues, we realized we are using our technology (iPads, computers, digital cameras) primarily for consumption. We would like to begin guiding elementary students towards utilizing technology more creatively. We are trying to find the balance between the practicalities of using technology for consumption while finding ways for students to express themselves creatively.” Vanessa Madsen & Val Mytopher
“Empowering students “means giving kids the knowledge and skills to pursue their passions, interests, and future”. We need to raise the bar from just settling for engagement through good content and practice, to empowerment. It’s easy to do an inquiry project, or genius hour as a “one-off” empowering activity, but how do you embed this idea mindset into our classroom environment? I do not have the answer yet, but I certainly hope to continue to learn and find out.” Jeremy Midford
“I think I am moving in the right direction in terms of the innovator’s mindset. I want my students to have more than just worksheet experiences in math and sitting at the carpet and me telling them how to solve math facts. If I go back to decision that made me change my practice, it probably was from my own experience as a new mom, what would I want from my own daughter’s early years teacher? A teacher who believed in play based learning with hands on experiences or a teacher who was old fashioned in her teaching style? The first one would appeal to me more as a mom. I’m excited to see what else I can come up with for my math practice in the classroom. I’m sure George’s book and the conversations we will have during these sessions will inspire me with more ideas.” Shannon McMurtry
What I love about these reflections is the open struggle that they are having with this process, and to be honest, the need to get better. Think of the types of questions that are being asked by these teachers going through this process.
What does innovation mean for education?
What type of learning would I want for my own child?
How do we move from consumption to creation?
These questions are being focused on, and as Jeremy mentioned in his post above, he is looking to find out more. The more we shift our focus to that of being a learner, the better we become as teachers. The struggle is not only “real” but it is an encouraged part of the process, as it should be.