As a teacher, one of my main goals in my classroom and in my school is to foster a culture of learning. I hope that by the time that students leave my classroom at the end of the year, that beyond any of the “stuff” that they learn, that they leave with a sense of curiosity and have developed skills that will help them to use that sense of curiosity to learn new and wonderful things.
I have learned an amazing number of things in my years as a teacher, and one of them is that kids are smart. I am not talking about book smart. I am talking about smart in the sense that they can sense from a mile away when an adult is being phony. They can tell when we are not practicing what we preach. Below are a few ideas that will help us to ensure that we not only talk the talk but walk the walk when it comes to being a lifelong learner. Don’t think for an instant that these are not things that I have perfected. I still need to grow as much, if not more, than others that I know. I am merely writing on some of the things that I am focussing on in my quest to promote learning in my students and to promote lifelong learning.
1. Ensure That You are Diligent In Your Administrative Tasks
As teachers, we constantly get after kids to ensure that their homework is completed on time, that they put care into the presentation of their work, and to be organized in their physical space. If we, as teachers, do the same, we are sending the message to our students that we value in ourselves the same qualities that we expect from our students.
2. Learn Something New
It doesn’t matter what it is. Learn or try something new and share it with our students. It may be that, in our adult lives, that we want to learn how to play the piano or that we want to learn a new language. The message that it sends to students is that learning for it’s own sake is something to be valued, not just as something to be done in school, but in life. It shows them that curiosity is not merely the realm of children, but that even adults want to learn and grow,
3. Read Something That Helps You Grow In Your Practice
Again, it doesn’t really matter what it is. Right now I am reading Mindset by Carol Dweck. I am moving through it slowly as I take the bus to work in the mornings, but I share what I am reading about with my students. The kids in my class not only hear me tell them how important that I think reading is, but they see me read and they hear me talk about what I am reading. Not only does this model the behaviour I hope to see in my students, it helps me grow as a professional by learning from what I read.
4. Work Collaboratively With Your Colleagues
We hope that students will work effectively in partner and group situations in our classroom. We recognize collaboration as a life skill that is important for students to possess. We then spend our time before and after school alone in our classrooms, working in isolation from the people around us. Since I have become vice-principal I have had the opportunity to really see the diverse gifts and strengths of all of the people that I work with. If we found ways to work together more effectively, our school would be better able to serve the students that we work with.
5. Reflect On Your Learning
One of the things that we, as teachers, hope that our students will become is self-reflective learners. We hope, that their learning will not be accidental and that they will take the time to reflect on the things that they learn in order for it to better integrate itself with the rest of the things that they already know. We should apply the same standards to ourselves. As we learn and grow as professionals, we should find the time and the means to reflect and look back on what we are learning. To me, this has been the main benefit of blogging. It has helped me to solidify my own thoughts about school and about education.
6. Take Chances
We ask students to take chances and do things outside of their comfort zone all the time. For some, it is in doing oral presentations, for others it is putting their thinking in writing. For others still, it is in working on Math problems. Teachers should expect the same from ourselves. We should push ourselves to experience a little bit of stress in trying new things or trying things that make us sweat just a little bit.
I hope to not only encourage others, but to push myself to walk the walk in a more visible way to my students and to help them to grow as lifelong learners.