One of the reasons I became an educator was because I love to learn. To some, this comment may seem confusing. I mean, as an educator, you educate; you teach. Typically, you’re not the one who learns. That’s the students’ role, right? Sure, that’s true in the traditional lecture-style learning environment. The teacher is the “sage on the stage”, and the students are there, with their minds open like a filing cabinet as information is filed away. Thankfully, this isn’t the only teaching style. I don’t even think I fit the “guide on the side” group...rather, something different. I am actively invested with my students, not watching or nudging from the side. I feel that learning is collaborative and energizing! When I come up with a catchy title, I’ll be sure to share.
Why do I teach this way? Well, first of all, I’m a natural introvert. Again, this is one of those things some people also find confusing. Just because I teach doesn’t mean that I thrive on being in the spotlight. Even from my first day of student teaching, I wasn’t comfortable in front of large groups. However, I found that I had a talent for connecting one-on-one with students and taking on more of an instructional coach persona in the classroom. Secondly, I teach this way because it encourages me to have a flexible mindset. If I’m too rigid with my lesson plans like I was in my early teaching days, I miss out on invaluable opportunities for growth, learning, and collaborations. Yes, as a person who is rather type-A, of course, I have plans and outlines and deadlines, but I find that I am able to create a better learning experience for my students if I plan for the unplannable.
For the first few years of my teaching career, this desire to be flexible and student-centered was extremely challenging because I was trying to manage differentiated instruction, personalized learning, and assessment on paper, without connecting with families, and only face-to-face. ...not to mention that it was rather uncommon ten years ago. Selling the concept of an open-format classroom with lots of student voice/choice/leadership was a tough sell to my head of the department.
I started small. I dove in. I researched. I learned. I think my metamorphosis as a teacher and the growth of my professional confidence could be a blog series in itself. I’ll fast-forward for now.
I adopted some amazing technology tools for a couple of years. Then, I moved to a new school with a new energy where technology that improved engagement and efficiency was celebrated. Then, when my school adopted Canvas, my teaching took off. Canvas allows me to take my natural personality and teach the way in which I love. I can cut down on those large lectures and demos by providing information for students to access as class prep or at their own pace in the classroom. That frees me up for more individualized instruction and time for questions.
So back to the “I love to learn” statement from the opening... There isn’t a day of teaching during which a student doesn’t teach me something. This could be something coursework related, or it could be something about myself. And, really, if I’m not excited about learning, I’m going to become “stuck” as a professional. I discuss growth and progress and learning from mistakes with my students routinely, and I would be hypocritical if I didn’t do so myself.
Learning is about growth, and to share that mentality with my students is incredible. While I get to see them draw connections and find their creative voice, I am learning beside them...as an artist, a professional, and an individual. What is there not to love about learning? It’s circular. Eventually, it comes back to you, even if it's not what you expected when you began the process.