I remember a time when I was teaching in a math classroom and teaching a course for the 10th or 11th time. I remember how I could anticipate students’ struggles before they even happened. Could that be because I taught it the way I always taught it? Maybe. But there were other times that I changed things up but observed those same struggles at the same time they always did. Could it be that I needed to structure the learning so students could develop understanding on their own or with one or two other students? Maybe. Should I have got other teachers’ eyes on what I was doing and got some feedback before, during and after those lessons? Maybe. All of these things can definitely improve the way learning happens in a classroom but I think there was one really important ingredient that was missing in my teaching.
From time to time I question my purpose in education and what am I really supposed to be doing to improve learning. What should I be seeing out there that tells me that all is good? Ultimately, I want to see students engaged in learning because they value the process. I want to see an urgent desire for learning not lukewarm learning. But, as we know, modelling this process is so important. How can we expect students to race after learning if the adults in their building don’t do the same? Don’t get me wrong…this did happen in my class from time to time but not nearly often enough. As the years past, I had a “been there done that” attitude and I’m sure the students picked up on it. I know, for the most part, students liked me but I’m not sure they always liked the learning. I’m not sure how often I “went through the motions” of differentiating the teaching and assigning rich tasks with multiple entry points and choice of how to complete them and show learning. Maybe students needed to see me learning along side them with a contagious love of learning. Does that mean some creative curriculum design? Maybe. How about time to explore multiple representations of the math and evaluate its merit? If we did it this way, then there would be learning for me too and questions can arise from those connections which means more learning opportunities and more connections. Students can make their own connections through this process and they can see value in this learning because they’re learning it their way not the way I want them to.