Goodbye 2009, Thanks For All The Lessons.

Surely we must be learning
Image by tonyhall via Flickr

These past few days of relative idleness instead of work have given me time to think, consolidate, reflect on and synthesize from what I have learned in the past year.

I wanted to write a post thanking the people who taught me this year but there are far too many of them to name individually.

Of course my wife and son top the list, here is a brief rundown of some of the others I want to thank:

–my PLN on Twitter has been an incredible resource of knowledge, advice, support and amusement;

–my principal who asks his teachers open-ended questions about grading philosophies, for example, then actually listens to what we have to say;

— the other administrators and colleagues at my school are daily sources of inspiration, encouragement, kindness and challenge;

— my students, they think I’m teaching them but I’m learning more from them than I could possibly put into a decade of lesson plans.

I’ve grown and learned an amazing amount this year, just like every other one. It is what I’ve learned that’s different.

Humans are sponges, we learn all the time. Sometimes students even learn what we want them to and what we think we are teaching them.

All of us teach all the time. The only difference between someone called a teacher and everyone else is that we get paid for our efforts.

The difference between teaching in school and teaching through our lives is that professional teachers, like me, are under the delusion we know what we’re teaching when we plan a lesson.

Academics are a very small part of the lessons we deliver each moment through our behaviors, tone of voice, manner of dress, choice of vocabulary and sets of expectations.

——

I’ve learned that if you want a student to learn a new skill you name the skill, show what it looks like, model using it, and give students time to practice using the skill in a low-threat environment before asking the student to perform the skill in a summative assessment.

Why do we forget this when we teach teachers?

One of my Twitter friends, Eric Sheninger (@NHMS_Principal), posted this today:

Prof. New Years resolution: provide even more PD so my staff realizes the true potential of edtech and web2.0

Tech PD is great, but if you really want teachers to use the tech you have to give them time to practice, to learn from mistakes made privately, to develop enough skill so that they have confidence they won’t look like complete fools once they are in front of students.

Asking a teacher to use or teach using the technology without adequate time to practice is equivalent to giving a student a summative assessment the day after a lesson.
——-
I’ve discovered that change is easier for me than I thought it was, but it is still not easy. The problem isn’t change per se, but how it can challenge one sense of control and one’s place in the general organization of things.

The same things that make change difficult for me also makes learning difficult for my students.

The place a student knows, his home, community or school situation  — as bad as it may seem to us — is often less threatening to a student than any new one.

I seer this when I try to move students in self-contained special education classes into inclusion classes. The students have mastered survival in a class of 12; the skills and behaviors required in a class of 32 are very different.

While the student may be able to do the academic work, the social adaptations required are often overwhelming because they threaten the student’s self-definition.

——

My professional resolution for the new year is to be more aware of, more tuned-in to my student’s need and the factors that interfere with their learning. I resolve to make my classes even safer environments for growth and development.

Happy New Year, everyone. I hope it is a safe, healthy, enjoyable year filled with opportunity, growth and love.

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