Monday, July 31, 2017

Lifelong Learning

     Learning is a part of life. Every part of life. Yearly, almost daily, I seem to learn some new nugget about my husband of 33 years. Friends? It's the same. I'm discovering new facets to them I was ignorant of in the past. Myself? Especially myself. I'm realizing why I do some of the things I do and understanding motivations like never before. Beyond self-discovery, I'm also learning about the craft and art of teaching from others who have innovative ideas and approaches. Summers are times to rejuvenate as a teacher but not stop learning.
     Get involved in a book study. This summer I'm involved in two professional book studies. Although one book is difficult to read (and comprehend), I've stuck with it and pushed my way through. I'm hoping hearing from this author and seeing what he had in mind when he speaks at a conference later this summer will help my comprehension of his work. The other book I'm reading, Shift This, by Joy Kirr, has been a joy to read. Filled with ideas and challenges, I found myself mentally adapting her concepts to fit in my classes. The book study has lead to terrific discussion, often leading me to uncover even more ideas to implement in the classroom. When I meet with this group, I never leave without feeling challenged to improve.
     Another way to be a learner is just to meet with colleagues and brainstorm. I have a few go-to people who never fail to spark ideas in me. This summer I was stuck on improving one of my classes. So instead of muddling through it alone, I pestered a friend until we finally met for coffee and discussed our approach to the same class. The result? I came away with a great idea to try this year that could truly transform my approach to Junior English. I rarely come back empty from my interactions with this colleague and I appreciate the time given to me.
     Twitter is a favorite way of mine to find new ways to deliver old material. It's quick, succinct and often leads to me to web articles that challenge my thinking or encourage new actions in the classroom. My district implemented a twitter chat (#gfedchat) during the school year a few years ago and that has been invaluable in my quest to learn.
     Finally, there's your state curriculum conference. My state conference NDCTE, is amazing. I confess I never gave it much thought until about five or six years ago when a colleague encouraged me to go. I haven't looked back. Penny Kittle, Louise Erdrich, Kelly Gallagher, Jeff Wilhelm, Jim Burke--these have been some of the quality speakers I've heard and learned from during this conference. My whole way of teaching and approaching the classroom has changed because of these speakers who are teachers.
     Being a lifelong learner isn't just good for you, it's good for your kids. You'll gain knowledge, but they'll gain a better teacher who is willing to implement new ideas. And that can make all the difference.

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