U is for Unity

typorama

An Unknown author said it best: “If a child cannot learn in the way we teach, we must teach in a way that a child can learn.” If there is anything that sums up what I’ve been trying to teach that quote says it best right there. While I consider myself a lifelong student in the four decades I have been alive I have discovered that how I was taught is when I learned the best. I’ve shared my secret shame of my problems with mathematics over the years. Two of the biggest reasons why Geometry was my worst subject for years was how I was taught. It wasn’t about solving for X or understanding pythagorean theory wrong, I had a teacher who years ago would say I got the question wrong and then give me the answer but would never tell me “why” I got the wrong answer. They figured if they just told me the right answer, I would do it on my own but the problem was, I didn’t know how to do it on my own but that was not how my teacher taught and in doing so, I could not learn. That’s the crux of it, I have a good friend who has been a teacher for many years and they got into teaching because they had a string of teachers who inspired them and wanted them to lead not just as a student but as a teacher themselves. My friend also told me they had their teachers who had to teach their way and if you didn’t get, too bad. They told me even with that type of discouragement it taught my friend to say: “If my students are learning how I’m teaching, maybe I need to change.” Something my friend has put to practice several times and discovered that in doing so, they not only made a difference in their students’ learning but also in how they are taught.

I am not a classroom teacher, but I have been. For an entire semester I taught a group of students soon to be teachers themselves how to use technology, use the SAMR Model, practice lesson plans and just be all around good people with their students. I found out during that semester not all of them could learn the same and I had to change the way I taught not just with a few but with all of them and I became a better teacher because of it. When that semester ended I had each one of my students ranging from their late teens to early forties tell me I taught them a lot and they wanted to use my model to be great teachers themselves. That was one of the most amazing compliments I had ever heard especially when they knew I was still a student myself under someone I also considered a great teacher. Sadly, it was the last time I would teach a regular classroom on a daily basis. I changed jobs and went on to be a teacher’s teacher which is at times makes me want to go back to the classroom with a group of regular students but the truth is, these teachers were my students.

Something we sometimes forget when teaching is that our students aren’t limited to just the smaller human beings in front of us or the college students waiting to get a degree so they can move on to their professions. All of us are students in some shape or form, when it comes to learning and each of us learns in a different way. There is a difference in the way my Science teacher learns and there is a different way my PE teacher learns and I must change how I teach for them to learn. I had a grade school teacher I taught how to use an annotation App because they were a visual learner. That teacher turned around and took that annotation App and applied it to her English lessons on a daily basis in a way no one thought about using it. They in turn taught it to their peers and in turn taught it to their students sitting on their iPads in the classroom. Then one day, one of those students raised their hand and said: “I found out I could do this.” That student then taught their classmates and those classmates soon wanted to lead a project using this new lesson. Then one of those students thought of way to do something similar with another App and then taught it to the teacher who then came back and taught it to me. I then took that lesson, created a workshop with it and taught it to a set of high school teachers who were blown away by the lesson and then went home and did it with their daily activities, not just their school work.

Many would classify this as the Domino Effect but in my case I call it the Boomerang Effect. What you do eventually comes back to you and then you send it off in a new direction and when it comes back you will learning more than when you first threw it. That’s not karma, that is Student Roll Out. I don’t have to show examples or say you should try this device or this type of curriculum over this one. This is being a teacher. When you inspire a student to learn no force can stop them and they will roll right out and go on to teach someone else what they learn and inspire them to learn and teach in their own way. I might not do weekly lesson plans, grade papers, give tests, hold down faculty meetings or check off attendance but there isn’t one student who hasn’t come to me saying: “I didn’t learn anything today.” I am not saying I have failed any student because I know in my heart of hearts I have at times but as said failing is: “First Attempt In Learning”. When I haven’t had something that didn’t work out for a student or for someone else, I learned. Learning never stops even when others say the lesson is over. No, learning is lifelong and we are always the students of something but at the same time, we are teachers to others and in turn they will teachers to others in their lives. Maybe in a classroom, maybe in on the floor trying to build the tallest Lego tower but we are teaching and learning every day. The best way to roll out student learning? Teach how they learn and you will always find success.

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