What are teachers doing to stay enthused and motivated these days? Hopefully they are generating learning experiences that allow students to engage with them- their teachers. Witnessing how students handle new understandings and skills and what they are able to do with they what they have learned is as revitalizing as applause for actors on stage. That moment when learners perform and demonstrate the artisans of ideas they have become compares to very few things in the teaching learning-process.
In an inquiry-based environment we encourage students to welcome the attitude of reflecting why it’s important to learn what they are learning. I wonder if many teachers embrace the same approach and wonder why it’s important to teach what they are teaching, but most importantly, if they ever consider the idea of ‘learning from what they teach and learning from what their students learn’.
If it is genuinely true that learners are the center of the learning process, this stance should be more than just a statement to describe an environment where the focus is not the teacher: students’ ideas, performance, wonderings, inquiries and understandings should inform (us) how learning is emerging, how knowledge and skills are flowing around the personal development spiral, upwardly and with a sense of endlessness. If we truly believe learners are the heart of what we do (especially if we, teachers, know why we’re doing it), then it means we are to embrace what they are able to bring to the learning plateau; it also means we are to acknowledge the fact that their presence, potential and passions need to be involved in the design and development of our curriculum; and that, most importantly, that we are to truly make the time to observe and contemplate what is happening with their learning.
Paraphrasing and adding to what Edna Sackson beautifully wrote in her blog whatedsaid, both teachers and students should devise and enjoy a system for them to participate in a demonstration of learning as a process, with facility for reflection for both, with an attitude filled by empathy that allows each one to see how they are seeing/living/experiencing the process through each other’s eyes.
Thus, recalling the learning that I have witnessed this week, I was touched by the alchemy in students’ efforts: they were fully aware of the ideas we were working with, they used it at will and moved from what they already knew to where they wanted to be. Their movement was personal, and they made me part of it; they made me part of the unfamiliar explorations they were undergoing, of their challenges and of their connections. I, on the other hand, was happy to be providing feedback that was not targeting improvement but enhancing the nature of their success so that they could take it to a different level.
In MYP3, as we discussed how artists use their personal experiences in the art they produce, we asked: How do questions sound when someone displays a specific attribute of the learner profile?
And some of the students’ most interesting ideas were the following:
Knowledgeable people don’t ask questions- they question ideas.
Communicators ask questions which are difficult to respond because they address big ideas.
Inquirers want to know more and the questions start with personal interest.
Caring individuals are bigger doers than interrogators.
Principled people always want everyone’s voice to be heard before a decision is made.
In MYP2, we are using the theme of trends, their beginnings and how they inspire new ones, in order to enhance the understanding of the past tense framework. Being this a research-based unit, students have amazed me with their abilities to decode the meaning of this collection of tenses in Spanish, which they have come to understand by going back in time in their searches, always aiming at finding the source and the genesis of things. This has allowed me to see how uncertainty makes them curious, how highly selective they were in what interested them, and in how eager to find a way to communicate their ideas to one another (including me) they were.
In MYP5, as we explore the different forms of education and the variety of ways in which we can learn and use the information we acquire, students have prepared speeches in order to share their convictions, to use their voice in the foreign language they are learning and to share with me the fact that they get it, that they know that part of learning includes sharing with others.
After these experiences, I wonder whether some teachers/experts become insensitive to the learning that students experience, to the achievement that can be breathed in the air in the classroom, and the manifestations of difficulty, opportunities, readiness and thirst for wanting more. For this reason, I am just wondering whether the blind spot that exists when driving also exists when teaching; and if it does, what causes it: the angles, the speed, the lack of attention, not knowing our way; or do we not even know it could exist.
I, once again, feel happy about being my students’ listener and fan No. 1.