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Teachers as Learners

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November 2011

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I have had the honor of providing a variety of professional development and trainings for teachers over the past few years.  I love that I get to combine two of my passions: education and leadership.  But I noticed something a bit frustrating the first time I delivered any kind of training to teachers….It’s much easier to teach children than adults.  I was an elementary teacher and I could usually maintain good classroom management just through engaging content and the good ‘ole “teacher look”.  My students respected my authority as their teacher, and generally enjoyed coming to school.

I’ve now moved into the world of consulting and all of my work is in training and/or coaching other educators.  Most of the teachers and administrators I’ve worked with have been great.  They weren’t all eager to give up summer time to come learn about technology integration, but most had decent attitudes about it.  But, there is always one (or a small group) of Negative Nellies (being named Janelle, I never loved this expression, but it fits…and I’m not usually too negative, so I will use it with abandon).  My strategy for dealing with those few involves big smiles and quiet affirmations that I am there to help them.  I feel like I win most people over as the day goes.  Most recently I was able to spend three days with a school district working with some of their high school teachers as they are moving 1:1 with Dell Chromebooks this school year.  I had so much fun with these teachers!  However, in a back corner of the room was a table of three women.  I could tell early on (like I hadn’t even introduced myself yet) that one was angry.  Anger is a secondary emotion (trying to sound very psychological here…), and typically stems from some sort of fear.  Since I have worked with many educators in the past, I understand that change often feeds fear in some people.  So, I don’t take that personally, and I made it my goal to smile big at her and try to find out what she was afraid of so I could dispel the anger before it contaminated those around her.  She exclaimed, “I thought technology was supposed to make things easier!”  Now any of my friends who have Chromebooks, use GAFE, or even those who just enjoy personal gmail accounts will probably agree that all tools can make things easier.  I said, “I know you don’t feel like it yet, but I am going to show you how much easier your workflow can be with these tools.”  She then complained about not being able to save documents to her desktop, and that she doesn’t need to be able to access these from any other device because she only uses one, and multiple tabs open make her angry (ummm…yeah, I’m picking up on that anger), etc.  Lots of complaining, not much listening.  As the day progressed, it was usually that table that would be talking while I was trying to model something important.  Or that group that wouldn’t come back to the group after some breakout work time.  I kept smiling (because I’m a Positive Nellie), but was wondering how this teacher would respond to students in her classroom that acted like that.  Would she cut them some slack, try to reengage them kindly, give them opportunities to vent their feelings?  I’m guessing not…

I guess my point to this is threefold:

  1. Teachers need to embrace learning.  That doesn’t mean you automatically buy into whatever someone is trying to teach you, but it means be open-minded to those whose purpose is to help you.
  2. Learners (in this case, teachers) need to be respectful to coaches/trainers in the way they expect from students in their own classrooms.
  3. Teachers need to pause and think about why a student might be acting out, withdrawing, or being negative in their own classes and try to rectify it in the name of learning.

Are you a lifelong learner?  We tout that phrase in education.  And learning can look differently for every person (ahem, plea for differentiation in the classroom here).  But, we need to seek out learning that we are personally passionate about, and realize that, at times, we will be forced to attend a training our district requires.  Go with a good attitude.  It will be more enjoyable and beneficial for all involved.  Be the learner you want your students to be.

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