I love learning! I mean REALLY love learning.
I love the messiness! I love the challenge of setting goals and trying to meet them, I love the connections shared with others during the learning process and the learning celebration, and I love the feeling I get when a new idea germinates in my head and grows into something I never initially imagined. I also love the nervous feeling in my stomach and excited energy that comes from pushing myself beyond my comfort zone.
OK… maybe I don’t always love this nervous energy, but I recognize that most of my deep learning will occur in this zone of uncertainty. Deep learning – not just about concepts, but also learning about others and myself.
But how did I come to recognize this? And do my students feel the same way? What about those students who don’t love learning? What are they thinking?
In Why School?, Will Richardson asks students, “How do your teachers learn?” Their answers reveal that students often see teacher learning as an event – a workshop, a book, a conference – rather than an ongoing, daily process that includes students. Perhaps the shift to inquiry-based classrooms will change this perspective to one that recognizes teachers as co-learners in the classroom.
Dennis Sparks’ blog post, “Seeing what is invisible to others” focuses on the need for teachers to share their instructional decisions with colleagues – to make the day-to-day decision making that might be second nature more apparent to others, in order to improve student and teacher learning. I wholeheartedly agree with the need to share and collaborate with colleagues.
However, I also think there is much to be done in my classroom in terms of sharing my metacognition with students – sharing what is invisible to others. Not just sharing my thinking during a math lesson when suggesting strategies to overcome roadblocks, but also sharing my questions and thinking during my moments of frustration, nervous uncertainty, and failure. What was I thinking at these times? What are my assumptions? How did I move forward? What did I learn? If I don’t model and share my thinking, how can I ask students to do the same?
So here’s what I hope to do, alongside my students, this fall when school returns:
• Ask questions, questions, and more questions.
• Keep and share journals of things we don’t know but want to know. Cultivate curiosity.
• Keep and share journals of what we have had to unlearn and relearn. What were our assumptions or experiences that led to this new learning? Celebrate our willingness to let go of old ideas and embrace new ones.
• Recognize when we are in a Learner or a Judger Mindset (see Marilee Adams: Teaching that Changes Lives or Change your questions, change your life). Choose to ask questions that move us away from blame, judgment, and rigidity about others, our learning and ourselves. Ask questions that move us toward a place of dialogue, curiosity, resolve, and understanding.
• Listen to others with the intent to learn. Recognize that we can learn from every conversation. Share our learning with others.
• Embrace uncertainty in our learning. “When nothing is sure, everything is possible.” – Margaret Drabble.
Am I feeling that nervous energy right now? You bet. But that means there is learning ahead!
“Good questions help us to become both certain and uncertain, and this is always the road that opens us to the surprise of new insight.” – Peter Senge