Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Teaching (SWITCH) Learning

© Copyright Bonelli and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

I feel like I have two separate lives, the life of a teacher and the life of a learner. During the school year most of my time is spent in the trenches as a teacher. Then in the summer, I am able to reflect on my teaching life and engage in more time spent learning. Making this transition isn't easy. In fact, many would say it is painful. We serve and support learners throughout the school year, dedicating all our time an energy to them until the last period on the comment in the report card is written. Then, we fall off the cliff. We mourn the loss of our learners - the every day interaction with them and their work. Slowly, we recover from our loss and embrace the possibility of uninterrupted time in the summer to embrace our own learning. Unfortunately much of the general public doesn't understand this critical part of an educator's job. Even I struggle with the amount of time during the summer that students need to continue to maintain all their learning they made during the school year. There has to be a compromise.

As a culture, we Americans must learn to value the time necessary for both students and educators to learn. Ideally, teachers should have time built into the school year to reflect and learn along with her students. But, truthfully, the amount of reflection and focus required can only take place with the absence of classroom responsibilities. In the half hour it took me to check on the blogs that I follow, my brain became so overwhelmed with the learning possibilities, I literally shut down and became unable to process. Is this how my students feel?

Yesterday a good friend of mine ran to the bookstore after hours of interviews. What did she want to read? She couldn't wait to get her hands on the ideas from book titles that came up during the day in conversations she was having with other educators. This is how teachers spend their free time in the summer. . . LEARNING! The tricky part of summer learning for teachers without an online professional learning network is they are learning in a vacuum. Of course relating their own teaching to new concepts as they read is valuable. But making text to self connections is only the beginning of deep understanding. Teachers must be encouraged to go a step further and engage in social networks as they learn. Instead of note taking for the next school year, teachers should be engaging with other educators who share the same questions. This means teachers are called to admit they don't know everything (this can be hard for teachers to swallow.)

I'm used to facilitating the learning of others from September to the beginning of June. My challenge during the next eight weeks will be to facilitate my own learning in a meaningful, authentic, and quiet environment. I just hope there are other teacher/learners willing to take the risk to engage in the learning with me.

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