Over the last few weeks I have taken some hard looks at my past practice and pedagogy. The question that struck me when reflecting was: How had I stopped being the learner? I have always loved learning, in fact, I call myself a “sponge”- I love taking on new information, analyzing, questioning and inevitably allowing it to change/morph my own thoughts and beliefs. Yet over the last few years of teaching I had been “sucked dry”. It was as if I had placed an internal pressure upon myself to “pour out” information to my students, without ever allowing myself to be rejuvenated through the process of learning. Now, after attending ConnectedCA, immersing myself in twitter and following conversations regarding 21st century learning I realize how archaic those thoughts were. However, that was the truth. I was essentially a lone well pouring information into buckets (my students).
I wondered where those ideas came from, or why I had begun to think of teaching as “filling buckets”? I guess those questions aren’t nearly as important as finally realizing that I was going about it all wrong. I had somehow forgotten what it was like to be a learner. I forgot what it was like to feel excited when trying something new, or getting the chance to experiment, create, analyze and explore. I think I was so concerned with being what I thought was the “perfect” teacher (yes perfectionism and the risk of failure is my character flaw) that I didn’t consider what a wonderful opportunity it would be to explore with my kids and watch them challenge concepts and formulate their own thoughts and ideas.
After reflecting for the last few weeks it is evident that I was scared of failure. In fact I was so scared of getting teaching “wrong” that I lost sight of what teaching is all about: it is about learning. It is about creating “learners”. Education to me now looks vastly different. I now believe that I am responsible for becoming a better learner and modelling what that looks like for my students. I want to be able to help them create critical thinking skills, and provide them with collaborative learning experiences where they can question, challenge and experiment together.
On a personal note, one of the biggest beliefs that I now hope to pass on to my students is that “failure” isn’t a bad thing. I truly wish I would have had a teacher who had focused less on the “facts” and more on the “skills” with me. If I had gotten the “wrong answer” it would have been far less stressful knowing that I could go back and re-do it and figure out how/where I went wrong (preferably with help from others) then simply receiving an “x” or a zero.
I now know that I was wrong in my prior beliefs and there is no such thing as being a “perfect” teacher. There is, however, a VERY STRONG WILL within me to become a better learner in the hope that I will become a better teacher. If that means I try an inquiry project with my kids and it doesn’t go as well as I had planned well at least I WAS LEARNING BESIDE THEM. If it means that I set up kidblogs with my classes and they only post mini on-line Health portfolios well IT IS A START IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION. If it means that I download Google chrome and figure out what it’s all about well IT IS ME CHALLENGING MYSELF TO EXPLORE AND LEARN.
I recognize that this reflection process is ongoing and I will have to “unlearn” to learn. I will experience failure and need to remind myself that: “if you’re not failing every now and again, it’s a sign you’re not doing anything very innovative.” – Woody Allen