My dad’s a big fan of saying, ‘Well, you learn something new every day’. I never paid much attention to it, but I think that dad is right about it and that this is a message that has soaked into my pores over my lifetime. Today I did some learning and I did some thinking. It’s not always comfortable and it’s not always easy, but it got me musing on the nature of learning and on the colleagues who inspire me to learn more.
It began with an email from Amanda – I’m mentioning her by name, because all day I’ve been thinking about how much I love working with her – and today I sent her an email to tell her this. I really like the way Amanda looks at the world and at her practice as a teacher educator and academic. She wants to know more about learning and teaching and this is never in simplistic and easy ways. Today she’d sent out some feedback from our GDE (Sec) students from last year – there was lots in this feedback to learn from, with students commenting about what they found positive in their experiences of our courses and what they would have liked to have seen improved, or areas that could have been approached differently. Amanda and I exchanged some emails about the feedback and I was telling her that I was excited about the opportunity the feedback presented to learn something new about my practice. Despite my excitement, there is always a moment of trepidation, something I shared with her in my email today:
I think there’s always a moment where I think ‘oh god, please don’t let it be horrendous’ but that’s because so much of our professional work as teachers is linked to our personal views of ourselves and our emotions as well – but in a supportive environment these kinds of things can be seen as ways of opening up discussions for learning. I looked at the feedback and thought ‘right, what can I do in my teaching to address these comments? what’s the gap between what I was aiming to do and what might not have worked with the students?” – and I had a couple of lessons with them last year where I wasn’t happy with the way things went so I went in and talked about that the following week – to try and model that idea that we learn through reflection and critiquing what we do. This has been really hard for me to get to as a teacher though – I was always so hung up on being a ‘good’ teacher (I’ve always been ‘good’ at things – what if I’m suddenly not?! shock horror) that I was scared to look at what might not be good – worried that if I opened pandora’s box, who knew what I might find out? That’s so limiting though and so at both uni and school I’ve had to challenge myself as a teacher (and a person!) to make myself vulnerable to learning (and I choose those words deliberately as at the beginning it was a lot more about being vulnerable to learning, rather than open to learning).
Another colleague, Robyn, introduced me to a quote that reverberates in my brain constantly. It’s from Schute, and I must dig out the actual reference details, but it says ‘One needs to stand in one’s vulnerability in order for it to become a strength’. I LOVE this concept. As a teacher and a teacher educator, it represents everything that is possible, challenging and worthwhile doing in our work. Learning involves risk, it involves being courageous enough to say that there are ways we can do things better, that we all still have so much to learn.
Today I send a shout out to three of my colleagues, three people who inspire me to learn more about who I am as a teacher – Amanda, Robyn and Maryann. I feel lucky to work with teacher educators who question the ways things are done, who seek to find ways to do things differently, who challenge me, question me, make me think and inspire me to keep learning. In working with them, I become a triptych learner – vulnerable, engaged and eager all at once.
So, who inspires you to learn and think more?