I joke with my kids (honestly) about not knowing everything. but sometimes I think they believe I really do. They see me as smart, and they like learning with me. I am a human being to them because I frequently say. “I don’t know, figure it out.” or “I don’t know, let’s see if we can find out.”
I believe kids want to relate to their teachers as a human being–there’s certainly enough research out there to show that the relationships between teachers and students are key to successful learning. There are so darn many ways we distance ourselves from that, though, as we work in the classroom. First, when we say to a child, who may have been misbehaving, “And what is Ms White’s rule about that?” (when it’s Ms. White doing the talking), how corny is that? WHO in real life refers to themselves in the third person?
Then there’s the “I like” people. “I like how Johnny is showing me he’s ready.” “I like it when Susie raises her hand.” I like it when. . . blah, blah, blah. . . What do kids learn from those types of “reinforcing statements”? That school is all about what the teacher likes and if you don’t do it, you’ll get in trouble. Best to play along and do what Teacher likes. (If you don’t believe that kind of thinking is pervasive, please go read ONE Junie B Jones book. Her teacher’s name is “Mrs.”) If I could outlaw ONE practice in school, it would be that one–because that simple statement makes it ALL about the teacher, and does NOTHING to help the child understand why the BEHAVIORS matter. (And I believe half the time they really don’t.)
Suppose, instead of “I like,” the teacher said, “Johnny is showing he’s ready by having his book out and waiting quietly.” or “Susie’s hand up shows me she has something to say.” or “Wow, when you all sit quietly, it’s so easy to hear the speaker .” or “When you sit quietly and listen when someone is speaking, your behavior shows you are a kind person ” (or courteous, or care about what they have to say…) Suppose the feedback had everything to do with the kid and ALSO everything to do with how the behavior impacts the rest of the group, constantly reinforcing that one does NOT go to school by him/herself, that we are part of a group and that we need to co-exist in that group to be successful in school. Because, I also believe that no child (initially) comes to school, saying “Today I want to be unsuccessful here.” Part of our job is to ensure success–after mistakes, maybe, because they are part of the learning cycle, but we need to ensure success MORE than failure.
Teaching IS learning–about ourselves, about our students, and yes, about our content as it changes and grows through the diligent work of geographers, and mathematicians, and scientists, and educators, and everyone else all over the world. And learning IS a hub. . of feelings, thoughts, ideas, caring, sharing, growing, thinking, reflecting, mistaking, trying again, designing, talking, working together, redesigning, hypothesizing, working alone, generalizing, creating, etc., etc., etc.
When a child brings a test to me and I glance over it to make sure they didn’t skip any questions, and I see that they worked a problem correctly in the work space, but circled the wrong answer on the multiple choice part, I am REMISS if I don’t ask them to recheck their answers. The test is not about me playing “GOTCHA” but instead helping them to develop habits that will reduce those kinds of careless mistakes. The test is a place for them to show what they know–and if it is standards -based, it’s not about playing around in the grade fog of catching them in mis-marking something they clearly showed they know.
When Pam Moran, my Superintendent, asked, “How do we use tech to shift from district hierarchies to leadership nodes and hubs connecting people in the learning web?” I paid no attention to the “how do we use tech to” piece–I read and began to think about the “shift from” part.
When I read @dennisar asking, “How do I co-create with my students? ” and answer his own question by saying, “I ask them to create personal meaning from class activities by using their own choice of digital tools for learning logs.” and saw Melissa Techman’s response:
@mtechman love your question re co-creating – I’m going to start with posting goal or topic and then stepping off-stage to join them in exploring/making/presenting
I realized I often do that with my kids–I often pose a problem that I KNOW is rich–but that I may not know the answer to initially. What I do know is that I can figure it out, I can (probably) beat them timewise doing it, and I will both hear and figure out some great questions along the way as we struggle together with a challenge I have set forth. So I shift from, as Pam says, a hierarchy of me posing the problem to a learning hub where other leadership hubs emerge as people begin to work together to figure out the problem.
As I looked at the twitpoll for this week’s edchat, I realized that, for me, # 1 and 3 were closed questions–a yes or no or simple list, unless we get to the HOW. In #1, WHAT we teach is dictated. . . can we talk HOW we would emphasize what should be emphasized instead? I want to figure out the HOW of school reform. . .
- With an overloaded curriculum, what should be emphasized and what should be eliminated?
- What are the advantages and drawbacks to single gender classrooms?
- Should the current system of grading be outlawed an replaced with something more “21st Century?”
- How do schools and districts help retain quality educators?
- How do educators deal with the question of “Friending” students on social media sites and applications?
And I realized, I want to learn the HOW from other people. I want to struggle with others to verbalize how schools should change to meet the changing needs of the world and our students.
And I realized he has it–a fundamental point–until we begin talking basic VALUES of teaching and learning with one another and get down to the nitty gritty of why we speak to kids in the third person or say “I like” or “don’t smile til Christmas” or any of those other things we do that negate setting up a true learning hub or web, schools won’t change. We need to discuss what IS a learning hub–do all teachers WANT them in their classrooms, what are the teaching and learning behaviors we value and where DOES grade fog play in all of it? How do we assess our students for real learning, and where REALLY are the opportunities for students to engage in critical thinking, interdisciplinary thought and transfer of knowledge? When do students engage and how can we leverage those instances and those behaviors for more sustainable learning?