Katie Martin kicks off her book, Learner-Centered Innovation, connecting with educators about the real double life that students find themselves in today. She quotes Will Richardson’s article that shares a student’s perspective as they describe themselves and their peers as the ‘lost generation.’
I mean, really. Which classroom would you rather be in…as a student? Are we losing our students? Or are we, as Katie describes it, evolving?
She speaks of four specific areas that educators must evolve within because “the power of the teacher comes not from the information she shares but from the opportunities she creates for students to learn how to learn, solve problems, and apply learning in meaningful ways.” (Martin, 2018, p. 29)
Co-Designer of Powerful Learning
Knowing the students on your roster as more than a number – what they love, want to become, are good at, and wish they were better at – is a key ingredient to effective teaching. I think elementary teachers, especially, are kings and queens at this. For real, we are with them for over six hours a day; we have no excuse to know them!
Try it – go down your roster and think of one thing you know (outside of academics) about each student in your room. Can you do two things for each student? Are they still true? Or was that so last month? I actually did it. I’m glad I did because I do need to catch up with a few students, in particular, and find out if my facts about them are still true. Life happens so quickly when you’re ten.
Beyond knowing the students, though, is the empowerment teachers must feel to modify and change the learning experiences to match their learners’ needs each day. In my school, I feel empowered to make professional moves. Thank goodness. What comes with making changes that only a few (or no) teachers are trying out is a lot of self-criticisms. That growth mindset of yours must have deep roots because it will be tested! I doubt myself every.single.day, but usually check back and remember that if one (or many, more likely) things didn’t pan out the way I wanted them to, I can change it tomorrow! So, what’s it going to be?
Empower yourself. Remember, you are a teacher 🙂 And teachers are SMART! They mold our future. They care. and they want to do what’s right for the STUDENT…so do it!
Partners in Learning
“Teachers don’t have to know everything, but as partners in learning, they can model lifelong learning and empower students to explore their passions and interests while employing valuable skills” (Martin, p. 31)
Can I just repeat that one phrase: teachers don’t have to know everything. Being a know-it-all is exhausting anyway, and there’s always that fear of being found out. In my class, I make mistakes regularly (we call them Fahey Fails) and I tell students what I’m learning about and ask for their feedback. They respond to my humility and wait for my plans to make things right.
What I still need to work on is modeling lifelong learning throughout a unit of study. Sometimes, I feel that I should know everything about what we’re learning in class. Yeah, that means sometimes I pretend to know things that I definitely don’t in front of my students. Why do I do that? Seriously?! I’m not an astronomer, so why should I know the names of tiny stars and be able to recognize them anywhere? Pshhh. I’m not alone here, right?
No one has all the answers to the perfect educational experience. That’s why I remain on Twitter. That’s why I blog and read other teachers’ blogs. That’s exactly why you’re reading these words (thank you, by the way, and please comment!) – because we don’t know it all – but we want to! Keeping the conversation open and not judgey or critical (in a negative way) will help us all grow, individually and as an entire learning community.
We have egos, unfortunately. That brings believing there are “right” or “better” way to do things. Yes, there are things that we’ve learned we don’t do in education (like corporal punishment), but we’re all on a different time-scale and path. My friend, Cheryl Miner, reminded me of this very important fact (probably when my ego was being a brat and taking over). You can share ideas, but don’t make others feel like bad teachers that are letting their students down if they’re not doing them. On the other hand, if others share ideas that you disagree with at that moment, consider them (and your initial feeling!), then remember it’s a conversation to help you grow! I’ve been working on this for over a year now, so share some tips if you have them.
“Discomfort is a catalyst for growth. It makes you yearn for something more. It forces you to change, stretch, and adapt.” Thomas Oppong
Connector & Activator
Connecting with others and activating everyone’s thinking is the last component. In the classroom, I’m working up to a silent day. Not where the kids are silent, but where I am silent. I’m teaching kids how to teach one another (not just give answers) and lead discussions. I’ve told them the goal and they’re up for it! Stay tuned to see how that process turns out…
Outside of the classroom is a different story. When I was in school, my teachers closed their doors – figuratively and literally. Please don’t do that! Everyone has wonderful ideas and we ought to share and listen to them. Build your personal learning network (PLN) to grow as an educator, absolutely. Remember relationships and the people in them flourish when the energy goes both ways. Sure, take ideas and stalk some twitter chats until you get comfortable, then get out there! Inspire your PLN right back! I want to learn from and with you! Light my fire!
Martin, Katie (2018). Learner-Centered Innovation. IMPress.
Oppong, Thomas. “The Only Time You Are Actually Growing Is When You’re Uncomfortable.”Medium, The Mission, 2 July 2017, medium.com/the-mission/the-only-time-you-are-actually-growing-is-when-youre-uncomfortable-33198a619ab0