Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Focus on the Good in Teaching and Learning

For a long time I've been a critical thinker who has wanted to work for, and contribute to, betterment. I often see the light of promise ahead and I am anxious to get there. That desire for change has impassioned multiple efforts to learn, reach, advocate, and promote change. Most of the time in the past, I just jumped in to make that change happen, and when it came to fostering innovation and change with children, jumping in has been a positive journey, however motivating change with adults has been a lot more challenging for many reasons.

First of all, most adults have their own agendas, ideas, and paths, and to suggest change interrupts what they are doing, and many people don't want to be interrupted particularly if they are happy with the way things are and the path they are on. While making change with adults can be a challenging process that doesn't mean it's a negative process since when adults come together to make change,  they bring their wisdom, experience, and differing vantage points which may help to foster thoughtful, dynamic change and development.

My vision for change has been strong, and my efforts to make that change come about have often been clumsy, zealous, single-minded, and driven, but as I get older, I am learning that while good change profits from great energy, good change also needs apt collaboration and cooperation.

With this in mind, where am I headed with regard to change.

First, I am delighted with the evolution of my classroom and teaching in the past many years. I am a much better teacher today than I was in the past. The reading, research, advocacy, and reach have resulted in betterment, and I see that betterment mainly in students' smiles, creativity, independence, learning, and friendship. Children are generally happy in my midst and children are learning. Today was a good example. I created a learning menu for students to practice and learn a few concepts. As students worked alone and together to master the skills, the results of their exercises were posted on my computer. I easily noticed who was catching on and who wasn't, and then I was able to pull the students over to help them learn--they were so happy to have the attention and so happy to be able to learn the concepts. Their learning was quicker due to the fact that they had done the preview activities and tried the tasks first. It was a successful learning event.

While I'm pleased with the evolution, I know that there is more that I can do, and I will continue to work for those goals. For example I've created a new feedback loop in order to provide more targeted and supportive feedback to individual student learners. This is a piece that I've been working on for years, and I believe I've found a successful strategy for this at last--a strategy that will help me to know and teach my students better.

I am also working to reroute my problem response to that of accepting that problems are a regular part of life, and the key to solving problems is to see the promise in the problems.

Further, I am thinking deeply about systems and schools, and where we can continue to change roles, schedules, and routines to better serve students. And I am thinking deeply about the fact that students need to learn-to-learn, problem solve, create, develop independence, and get along with one another to live and learn well.

I've probably devoted at least 50 hours a week to teaching well my entire career which is a total of 85,800 hours--that's a lot of hours devoted to a career. It has taken me a long time to trust myself, acknowledge the work I've done, and recognize that the light I see and promise I know exists are real and powerful. Only lately have I been able to see the positive results of my work in ways that give me the confidence to stand up for my ideas and speak well of my work.

This doesn't mean that I don't make mistakes or that I can be or do all things. All educators know that none of us can do it all or be it all in our field--it takes the good work of many in schools and outside of schools to nurture and educate students well, and an openness to that collaboration is essential in this regard. The collaboration to work well, however, has to be well intended, honest, and respectful. We can't be too quick to judge one another or demean one another. Instead, with empathy, we have to recognize each others' unique gifts and contributions as well as each others' weakness and struggles.

Finally, we have to focus on the good--the good work, the good change, the good people, the good initiatives. We have to steer our teaching/learning ships in that direction while heeding the negativity and challenges, but not letting those energy draining and destructive paths take us down and away from the good that's out there, the light we see, and the promise of the betterment that we know exists.