I had a moment this week that stuck with me – so decided I should capture it in a blog post.
I have not done a lot of reflecting and writing lately as I have been on the gerbil wheel, racing around frantically trying to complete the “to do” list of report card reading, teacher evaluations, finishing touches on the School’s Annual Report and hiring new staff. This, combined with my choice to spend the last four weekends traveling near and far to visit family, watch my son play hockey, take part in an annual run with friends and present at a conference with colleagues from Greystone – has left me feeling like there’s not enough time during the week to get everything done…time to slow down!
From experience, I know that I do my best thinking and reflecting when I make time to relax – ideas flow, I get inspired by what I read or things I hear. That’s what happened today – something I heard during a meeting popped back into my head – it was a moment from this past week that I want to remember.
I had an “aha moment” in teaching – about fifteen years ago. It was in that moment that I understood what it meant to be a teacher. I figured out that the most important thing I could do for my students was to create a love for learning. Not only did I understand that this was the reason for my existance as a teacher, I also learned how I could make it happen. I needed to get off my stage and take a back seat to the students. They were the ones who needed to question, think, explore, figure things out. They needed to do more talking than me. They needed to learn how to think for themselves. They needed to NOT NEED ME. When I figured this out, my job became even more complicated and complex – but far more rewarding! I realized that in order to move my students to a place where they were directing their learning, I had to be even more organized, more thoughtful about my planning, more knowledgeable about the need to knows versus the nice to knows in the curriculum, more flexible to let students take their learning in unexpected directions and most importantly, more responsive to them as individuals. I needed to remember that each learner brought different background experiences, prior knowledge and even possibly some misconceptions to the table and that each learner required something different to build their understanding around a topic. I needed to create the setting for students to explore, deeply, the landscape of a topic. My job was to coach their learning by asking the right questions, sharing the discoveries as they were made and supporting students to reflect and ask questions of each other. I needed to create curiosity and a sense of wonder in my classroom – then get out of the way and put the learning and thinking in the hands of the students. I remember, so clearly, the moment when this happened for me, as a teacher. I became an observer, listener,facilitator and coach for the students – I was no longer the “chick in charge” at the front of the class.
Fast forward fifteen years later – I am Principal of a school full of bright and talented teachers. One of the many things that inspires me about my work now is when I see the “aha moment” happen for teachers at my school. This took place for one of our teachers and she shared it during a meeting last week. She said something like this:
I realized that it isn’t my questions that are important or me telling them what they need to learn about. What needs to happen is that they ask the questions – they come up with what they want to learn more about. I need to figure out how to help them do this.
YESSSS!!!! The “aha moment” – shifting control of the learning from the teacher to the student. Creating a sense of wonder and curiosity among our students – this is the real art of teaching. As John Medina puts it in his book Brain Rules:
Rule #12: We are powerful and natural explorers.
We need to provide students with the opportunity to become curious about the world and then give them the freedom to explore and discover for themselves. This is how we help them create the memorable moments in their learning.