Waiting for that ‘someday’

Ten years from now, guaranteed I’ll be a great teacher. My lessons will unfold exactly as I hope, no more mistakes, classroom management will never present me with any new challenges, and I will be an expert at designing truly authentic learning experiences and orchestrating deep—very deep—discussions that truly capture and elicit my students’ curiosity.

Of course, that’s a lie. But a lie that as a beginning teacher you tend to believe is true. That today is about making mistakes and tomorrow—that someday—is about becoming an expert teacher. But then, as you begin to emerge yourself in the practice, this image starts to fade away. Bit-by-bit you start to realize that that ‘someday’ doesn’t even exist and this image is serving more as a justification for making mistakes. As if somewhere down the line mistakes will no longer be valid or acceptable. As if teaching, the art of tapping into another human’s brain, influencing the shape of neural pathways and continually trying to make learning relevant to the changing world around us is something that is finite.

How could I have believed that this is true while holding on to the idea that teachers are researchers? When does research ever stop? When does the learning ever stop?

I had five goals written out before walking into my final practicum and it was time to reflect on them. Did I meet my goals? Can I place a checkmark now beside all these areas?

No, I didn’t meet all my goals. I didn’t even know what the criteria for that even means. Sure, I developed in some areas, but in others, I barely touched the surface. In fact, the more I reflected and the more reading I was doing online to find out what other great teachers are doing in these areas, the more I realized how much more learning lies ahead of me. I could only think of this quote in that moment:

knowledge-quote

But I was perfectly satisfied with that and instead of feeling disappointed, I continued to read with a smile on my face. I was exactly where I wanted to be because as Dan Meyer once placed it, “I need a job that has me learning everyday.”  Not to say that learning only occurs in the field of teaching, but rather, it’s the type of knowledge seeking that excites your neurons, whether it be about education, arts, sports, fashion –whatever makes you curious to learn more.

Today, my fixed mindset image about ‘someday’ mastering the art of teaching no longer exists. Instead, it’s reflected more in a truly authentic yet unfinished painting with only one purpose —to keep you curious.

In a previous post, I made a sketchnote reflection about my top 10 What Went Well during practicum with the intention of following up with an Even Better If one, but the list was simply too long. I ended up writing this instead, but as a final Even Better If statement: aim to be an expert in the content of your subject, but know that the art of transferring that knowledge will always be a work in progress –enjoy the painting more!

Learning Connections

Research has proven over and over again that the brain works best when many different areas are simultaneously activated together. Without integrating subjects and allowing students to engage in the process of learning, we as teachers are simply transmitting information, and focusing only on developing few areas of the brain —mainly language processing and memorization. When we allow students to learn through storytelling, for example, instead of the mere act of lecturing, they can form an emotional connection to the material, and thus will be able to understand and retain the information much better. Vittorio Gallese, one of the key members who discovered mirror-neurons explains that:

“when we read fiction or see a movie or a play and even when we see a painting, we map these fictional humans’ actions, emotions, and sensations onto our own brains’ visceral, motor, and sensory representations. That accounts for our emotional experience, which comes before our cognitive experience.”

This Is Your Brain on Culture, 2011.

During the past couple of years, I came across many readings which support integrating arts into learning, especially math. At first, this idea seemed a bit unconvincing, mainly because I never had the opportunity to experience this during my studies. When I signed up for Math Camp at uOttawa before school started, I had the impression that it would be just like any typical math class I previously experienced, where we would remain seated for the entire class and work on problems individually. Attending this camp was truly an eye-opening experience as it changed my perspective on teaching. Hardly ever did we remain seated or even use a pencil during that week. The focus was on expressing our thoughts, engaging in discussions, integrating arts into the inquiry process, and developing visual representations for our solutions.

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As one of the professors placed it,

“we learn so much more about how students think by asking them to explain how they reached their solution instead of looking at the final answer.”

Focusing on how students express their thought process allows them to self-asses their own understanding, helps them build self-confidence, develop a sense of ownership to the material, and learn how to articulate their thoughts in general.

Personally, my goal is to introduce students to the art of knowledge, and hopefully get them to fall in love with the process of learning and discovering. I strongly believe that by integrating the arts and the idea of story-telling into other subject areas, will help my students develop a sense of emotional connection to the learning and provide them (and myself) with a more engaging and stimulating learning/teaching experience.