Teaching – the most haunted profession of all.

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This photo really has nothing to do with haunting, but it was the scariest image I had. (Image: © Elena Moiseeva | Dreamstime.com)

One of the great mysteries of the teaching profession is that we are the one most closely linked to learning, yet we are the most resistant to change, the greatest inertia bearers of any profession. (Even if you disagree, it is safe to continue as I will argue with myself in the next couple of sentences.) This makes no sense, until we realize that my first assumption has a fatal flaw, in that it is based on a common misconception. Teaching has not always been about learning. It has mostly been about teaching.

This is the fundamental piece of the school-puzzle that has changed rapidly in educational thought, but not in educational practice. We think differently in our heads, but sometimes not in our insecure hearts, because we are haunted by those persistent ghosts of the past. Our teachers were probably about teaching, not learning. It is hard to throw the ghosts of our own hard earned school experiences off our backs, those ingrained assumptions about the way classrooms run. Tenacious little assumptions they are, formed during our own school days.

The closed-classroom is the embodiment of the ‘teaching is about teaching’ world view. Conversely, the ‘teaching is about learning’ world view is embodied by an open-classroom. It seems that levels of preparedness to share would be a perfect measure of classroom openness. For a quick self assessment of how badly you are being haunted by those ghosts of the past, I have three questions – a yes/no is required.

  1. I am nervous about sharing my lesson/unit plans with colleagues because they may not be good enough. (The plans, not the colleagues!)
  2. I become nervous when another adult enters my class.
  3. I make sure my door is (literally) closed when I am teaching.

If you answered yes to all three, you are clearly being haunted by ghosts of school past. Fortunately, there is a simple remedy. Do what we ask our students to do on a daily basis. Create, share, publish, create, share, publish, create, share, publish ad infinitum. A sure cure to get those ghosts (closed-classroom insecurities) off our backs and move our great professional along, so that our collective thinking will more closely align with our collective practice.

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The only one who truely doesn’t believe in you.

 

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My first novel, the product of walking the dog with my daughters.

http://bit.ly/OystermouthWhispers

An interesting exercise when you are starting an endeavor is to make a list of all the people who really believe you can do it and all of the people who really believe that you can’t – as well as all the people who fall in between. For argument sake, I will use a six point scale to describe my list when I started my first novel and most of the way through the writing process:

  1. Really believe that you can do it:  My two daughters & my dog.
  2. Think that you probably can do it:  My wife and a few friends. Me sometimes.
  3. Wonder if you can do it or not: Me sometimes. A few more friends.
  4. Think that you probably can’t do it: Me often.
  5. Really believe that you can’t do it: Me sometimes.
  6. Completely indifferent: 7.163 Billion minus 8 people and a brown dog. (i.e.The rest of the world.)

I wonder if this is the same for other people. From my experience with teachers and students in schools, I am guessing it is so. I was in my 40s when I wrote the novel, having already successfully passed a few milestones in my life, yet I oscillated between points 2 to 5 regularly. How must it be for a student in school? The interesting thing about the exercise is that I guarantee there is only ever one person on No. 5 and that is you/me. I thought about this a lot during the writing process, and the knowledge helped me combat that self-doubt protective reflex that is the bane of our creative spirits.  Remember that you are alone, but only within the restrictive bubble of your own self-doubt.

You really should read Oystermouth Whispers, by the way. A novel by my favorite author.

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Success – The end point or the next step?

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Image: © Jan Csernoch | Dreamstime.com                                                                                                           What’s on the other side? Literally, only one way to find out.

 

A tweet crossed my path today, as they are want to do, with a phrase ‘culture of failure’ and this started me thinking about our perceptions of success and failure. There has been a lot said regarding the importance of failure for learning, however the waters are muddied somewhat as we carry around different ideas of what these concepts represent. I don’t feel that the current ideas of embracing failure, for the sake of learning and creativity in general, are aimed at the end of the journey. It seems that the current discourse on the subject of failure has pulled failure back from the distant end of the journey, to the immediate next step of the journey. In this sense, failure is not what it used to be. It has become part of the process instead of the outcome. This is powerful, and if this is what is deemed a ‘culture of failure’ I welcome our new definition. I am not sure that I am too keen on a world where success is a rainbow, vanishing as we approach. I like the immediate. We can do something about that. There may be no ‘there’. Only a ‘here’, and this is where success and failure belong in the learning process.

Learning is a house with many doors. Success depends on opening, or building, the right ones along the way. Sometimes we have an idea of where we are going. Sometimes we do not. We never really know what is going to be on the other side of any of them. Success and failure are just the unique combination of the doors we move through.

Tweets (May 10, 2014)

  A carefully co-constructed-with-the-learner rubric makes it easier for the learner to see what direction success is.

  I’m not sure we always want success. How does that line up with culture of failure in vogue now?

  Depending on whether success is defined as the end point or the next step. If success is a rainbow? 

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