What am I learning?

Two great items popped into my feeds the other day that really stuck with me. I have the feeling that if I don’t write them down I’ll probably forget.

First, the always relatable Justin Aion wrote a brief post about what he learned about Astronomy as he taught he class.  While the post is related to content more than pedagogy, there was a very interesting thought from the outset that begs for more consideration:

I’m starting to think that rather than “today my students learned …,” I should begin my posts with “today, I learned…”

-Justin Aion

The statement simultaneously convicts me and encourages me.   On the one hand, I am faced with the challenge of learning more about the content I teach every single day.  As my second year of teaching 6th grade continues unfolding, I realize that a majority of the mathematics I’ve been learning the past year and a half is more revisiting subjects than learning new mathematics.  Also, it’s hard to will myself to grab a math book from your college days to peruse when many times I just need a break.  On the other hand, Justin’s words encourage me.  I’ve found that the past year and a half in the classroom taught me more about the learning process and the learning of mathematics than I ever anticipated.  The philosophies and psychological constructs I learned in college suddenly have striking evidence from my daily interactions with students.  I’ve come face to face with the obstacles and joy that come from trying new approaches for teaching mathematical concepts.  I’ve learned you might teach the same content over multiple years, but the way in which you teach is never the same.

Here’s where the second item from my social media feed comes into the picture.  Heinemann Fellows released an interview with Michael Pershan.  When asked about a source of pride in his teaching career, Michael explains his realization and commitment to learning about teaching and using this knowledge to help students.  Michael recalls thinking in his first and second year of teaching:

We’re gonna wrap this up really quickly… but I stuck around I think because I was able to convince myself that was stupid. There’s a lot here to understand and to learn.

I could not help hearing this phrase echoing my experience this year.  I walked in this year convinced I would have a lock on some of the content and climate aspects of my classroom.  After all, I learned what not to do last year, right?  In reality, the experiences and students I have this year have taught me even more about the teaching and learning process.  The truth is that I’ll never be able to wrap up teaching into some nice, neat package.  Actually, teaching and learning are just the opposite.  It’s messy, complicated, part planning, part willing to improvise, predictable, surprising, difficult, manageable, content related, and dedicated to the overall well-being of students all at the same time; however, it’s incredibly beautiful and endlessly fascinating when you walk into the classroom each day ready to understand and learn.

What am I learning?  It varies everyday.  Sometimes I learn mathematics.  Sometimes I learn about teaching.  Sometimes I learn about learning.  Sometimes it’s just learning about your students more and they teach you how to do the whip.  Regardless, there’s an incredible power in recognizing teachers are learning just as much in their classrooms as their students.  Hopefully, this sentiment will be a great reminder for me in the future.

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