As I grow older, I realize there is a lot I don’t know. I have a lot to learn. Don’t get me wrong, after over two decades in the classroom, there is also a lot I do know. But as I age, I recognize, more than ever, my need to keep learning. Luckily, my desire to keep learning is at an all time high.
Teaching is, I believe, learning. And good teachers are, I believe, committed learners. I’m convinced you can’t do one without the other.The day I stop wanting to learn, is the day I need to stop being a teacher.
Where do I learn? I learn in my classroom and those of my coworkers, in hallway conversations with colleagues, in PD meetings and on Twitter. Inside and outdoors, at the lunch table and in the auditorium. Sometimes I learn while reading in bed late at night. Not long ago, I learned about a child’s sadness as I sat in her classroom while she shared a powerful poem during a writing celebration.
How do I learn? I learn by listening, watching, reflecting, taking risks, asking questions and soliciting advice. I learn by trying new things, taking notes in meetings, observing teachers in their classrooms, reading books, and joining webinars and Twitter chats. I learn by writing. I learn from blogs I follow and journals I read. One of my favorite ways to learn is when I follow what I call an online trail. I’ll read something on Twitter or in a blog post that sparks my interest, and before I know it I am clicking on embedded links, reading through connected posts, and ending up in a cyber spot I never would have found if I hadn’t been wanting to learn and follow a series of “breadcrumbs” in an online trail.
When do I learn? All the time- during the day, during the school year and during the summer. At night and on weekends too. My learning isn’t all school focused. I learned to turn my head to both sides for breathing while swimming laps by practicing in the pool until it became routine. Sometimes I learn at the most unexpected moments. The other day I was taking a quick walk around the campus with a colleague. She is our technology guru, but before that she was a third grade teacher, a librarian, and a fourth grade teacher. We got to talking about one of my reading students, and next thing I knew, I had learned about a book series that just might hook this reluctant reader.
From whom do I learn? I learn from my students, peers, and faraway cyberspace friends I know through Twitter and various blogging communities. I learn from my own children and my mother, from friends and administrators. I learn from other people’s stories and from my own experiences. I especially love learning from tech savvy younger colleagues, who’ve come to my rescue more than once and taught me how do do something on my computer that I couldn’t figure out without help.
Why do I learn? Because I love it. Because I am curious. Because I believe I can always get better. Because there is so much out there to discover. Because learning makes me a better teacher. And teaching makes me a better learner. Learning is a gift. Teaching is too.