I feel both frustrated and saddened.
Frustrated because I don’t know how to change the situation I’m faced with and saddened because I know that unless change happens, others are not only missing out but those they teach are missing out too.
Yet another professional colleague gave me that irksome, fixated, glazed stare as I rattled on about the joy of learning and all that I have learned by talking, reading, writing, listening and sharing along with the immense pleasure I constantly gain by acquiring new knowledge and knowing that I am part of an amazing never ending chain of knowledge.
Why doesn’t everyone get it?! Why doesn’t everyone understand that all educators – young and old, experienced and less experienced – need to continuously learn?!
If you’re reading this blog, you’re already hooked. You already know how important it is to constantly reach out for new thoughts, ideas, pedagogy and technology. It’s something you do on a regular basis. It’s something that feeds your joy of being. It’s something that helps you grow and perform as a better teacher.
Unfortunately though, not everyone feels the need for ongoing professional learning.
How can we change this mentality? How can we excite our colleagues who haven’t yet discovered not just the need to continuously learn, but the inherent joy derived from learning?
What processes are we putting in place to bring others on board, to make them recognize how important it is to stay fresh and to maintain their relevancy in the eyes of their students and their work colleagues?
A shift toward centralized teacher registration in Australia is attempting to formalize this. VIT registration renewal now requires each of us to complete 20 hours of professional learning each year. But, it can be argued, forcing people to learn doesn’t necessarily translate to learning and growth actually occurring.
It’s the learning culture we need to change!
Just as we aim to instill a love of learning in our students, so too we need to instill a love of learning in educators. Just as we grow weary of the many students in our classes who complete the bare minimum to prove competency has been gained, I grow weary when I see professional colleagues just step through the ropes to earn that ‘Certificate of Completion’.
Just recently I was telling my son about an awesome online program I had recently ‘attended’. In between sharing details of the course, I mentioned that while I enjoyed the weekly readings and took the opportunity to play a little with some of the tools to which we were being exposed, the weekly assignments were not to my liking, so I didn’t complete them. In saying this out loud, I realized that this is the first time I haven’t actually completed all those ‘required tasks’ which I knew would disqualify me from receiving my ‘Certificate of Completion’. And, furthermore, I didn’t feel an ounce of guilt! The many hours I had spent poring over readings of websites and the comments and thoughts exchanged by all of us participating in the program was sufficient for me. As this realization popped into my mind, I realized that gaining the certificate was not the reason I had even enrolled in the course! And then, I was blown away when my son’s response came swift and clear:
We learn what we want to learn, not what we have to learn.”
Funnily enough, just last week, a senior member of our teaching staff popped into our workroom confessing that he had never been interested in learning details shared in one of the mandatory sessions conducted by our eLearning teachers, never, that is, until now – because now he needs to know how to apply that learning! A brief exchange between us deduced an eerily similar comment to that of my son:
Successful learning most often occurs on a need to know basis.
So, could it be that herein lies an unexplored path to ignite a love of learning among the teachers in our schools? Could we perhaps create instances in which needs are manufactured, needs which would compel teachers to step into that glorious world of learning so that they could reap the rewards and experience first hand the joy of learning?
As I said earlier, my learning is constantly propelled by
- talking: predominantly on Twitter and face-to-face with work colleagues
- reading: thoughts, comments and links found on social media and the blog posts of others
- writing: reflecting as I write posts for my two blogs
- listening: when attending conferences, workshops or meet-ups with other professionals
- sharing: by presenting at conferences which encompasses much thinking and planning
So, is it possible to bottle some of the experiences and dividends I’ve described as being inherent in my style of learning to create situations from which our work colleagues could gain much.
- what if teachers had to create a Twitter account so they could regularly receive shared information from the Principal?
- what if teachers were then required to follow 10 thought leaders and share those they follow with their followers?
- what if teachers had to tweet their response to at least 10 links found and read on Twitter?
- what if teachers had to RT good tweets read?
- what if teachers had to send an agreed minimum number of tweets a week?
- what if teachers had to read at least six recommended blogs a week?
- what if teachers had to view at least six videos (TED, Youtube) a week?
- what if teachers had to create a blog on which they share reflections of their own learning journey?
- what if teachers had to write at least one blog post a week?
- what if teachers had to leave comments on the blogs of at least three other colleagues a week?
- what if teachers were required to attend a school based TeachMeet where they had to present for 7 minutes?
- what if teachers were required to attend one online learning program a year?
- what if the above cycle was a professional learning requirement for a set number of weeks each year?
- what if each teacher’s participation in this program was monitored by an experienced mentor?
- what if learning time – at least three hours a week – was scheduled into each teacher’s weekly timetable?
- what if schools underwent some rethinking and redesigning to overcome the kinds of situations illustrated here which saps the time and energy of the time poor teachers in our schools?!
Is it possible that by implementing these practices into our staff professional learning programs that we could, at last, instill a love of learning into the hearts and minds of all our teachers?