Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A Learner's Point of View

Today I learned a lot about empathy during my math class.

It seemed like whichever decision, comment, or idea I had, no one could connect. I was seeing the activities, problems, and process in a much different way than my classmates. And on a couple of occasions, my team members were not that patient with me. I was a bit impatient myself at times.

I was cognizant of all of this as it happened. I wondered, "How can I see this so differently?" and thought about what was going on.

First, speed of processing and problem solving was at play. In some cases, I was too fast, and in other cases, I was too slow. Rate of work plays a role in collaboration.

Next, process. I had a very different way of attacking the problems and a very different mindset about context. This was not surprising since the educators at the course represented a wide variety of school districts throughout the state. It was also not surprising because most of the teachers teach at the Middle School level where they teach class for about an hour and teach approximately 100 or more students a day. They are highly focused on the math standards too, while I've been focused on standards across curriculum and often an interdisciplinary approach as well.

After that was precision. Many times, as soon as I had the broad idea of the activity, I was satisfied, but my classmates, in some cases, were reaching for lots of detail with their answers, responses, and decisions. How much detail to include is an issue that impacts collaboration and teamwork.

In addition was the area of commitment. In some cases, school teams were at the course. It was evident that those teams were committed to working together and growing their school level programs. On the other hand, those of us just there for a few days, did not have that much commitment to each other as we know the course is fleeting.

Also, patience and preconceived notions. Some bring preconceived notions about teachers in particular districts, schools, and levels which can impact the share and work. Patience or lack of it can also impact the collaboration.

Finally, we ended the day with a test. I could not think clearly and was struggling not to notice those finishing, getting up, and leaving before me. I wondered why I couldn't think through the problem, and the more I worried, the less I could do. Later, on the car ride home, I grasped the problem, once the worry was over.

As I experienced this tough day of learning, I thought about my learners. I thought about the outliers who come to school with few connections and little common focus to the other children. I thought about those that work really fast or really slow and how to best accommodate them. I thought about the children who worry and are blocked during a test rather than have the confidence to take the test slowly and with confidence.

In the end, I realize once again just how much care, empathy, and support we must bring to our student learners every day. We must make sure that students feel like they belong. We need to group students carefully and leave room for grouping changes when needed. We need to stand by our learners with strength because the way our learners feel about their learning and the way they're able to access the work and complete the projects matters a lot when it comes to teaching children well.

Sometimes the best lessons are the lessons we didn't expect to learn.