What is Learning?

As much as I know I ought to write a more polished post, as it has been some time since I have, I am finding that this will be more of a stream of consciousness on a topic which has recently consumed my reflections. I am struggling. Honestly, I am reaching out to the expertise of a PLN whom I know will disregard the lack of professional polish of this post. So here we go…

Nearly three weeks ago I began a minor unit PBL which, to be brief with such, had students creating business proposals for their local community centered on movement towards a renewable energy source. I had pulled back from leveled learning and gamification, so that I could help address the gap I witnessed in which students had little confidence in their ability to question, how to question effectively/strategically, and how to navigate their digital world for information. With the PBL, I adjusted course based on daily reflections with my colleagues and students. Yet, many of these reflections left me…at a point which I needed to blog (anyone else get this way?)

In my brief years as a teacher, this has to have been one of the hardest PBLs, and series of lessons in general, to watch. I know struggling is significant to the learning process; I know it is crucial, I know it is beautiful in and of itself, as well. Yet, each day I had a handful of students state, “why can’t you just give me notes? I learn better when you just tell me what I need to know so I can pass the test.” Similarly, students stated, “is this the right question to ask? Can you just tell me if it is what you want?” Or, “why are we doing language arts in science class? Who really wants to hear what we have to say?” While further conversations with students revealed frustration, and sometimes anger, all of such stemmed from the difficulty of truly owning their learning. None-the-less, it was hard to watch. Especially daily.

I may have learned more in these past few weeks than I ever have before as a teacher, and this is exactly why I’m struggling. I’ve witnessed more students frustrated with me, just as much as I have had students be thankful for this type of learning experience. However, as a teacher it leaves me in a difficult position for those who are struggling with this mode of learning.

How do I move forward with such frustrations by my students?

While I know many will disagree with me, I believe we are in an era which our focus is not truly intentional to our students’ needs. My students need someone who will teach them to question, to learn to be independent learners, to understand what it means to truly embody ownership of content. My students need so much more than an assessment will ever show. I have no doubt I can teach my content in a manner which will get all my students to exceed growth, but I care more about teaching them what they need to know through a lense that subsequently teaches them how to exceed beyond our current concept of “needs.” I desire so much to see them excel beyond the classroom, so I choose to teach in a way which allows them voice, choice, and the opportunity to grow skill sets necessary for their future (beyond our perception of reality.)

imageI care deeply about my students, and have had some tough, vulnerable conversations with them recently. I presume I’m crossing a road of “tough love” in my practices, where I must choose between giving my students what they want versus what they need. But, how do I become alright with the emotions that come with such pushback?

I guess what I am trying to get at is, does or has anyone else experienced such in their own classroom (however you choose to define “classroom”)?

And here are some larger questions for you: How is it that we have reached a point where our students believe their voice does not matter? How have we reached a point where students (albeit, not all) believe learning is me giving them the information so they can pass a test? There’s a place for accountability, yet how do we change the present education model which doesn’t address true student needs? How do we shift to a system which values preparing students to thrive in a world that anticipates change daily, as opposed to preparation for a test?

How is it that thinking, questioning and creativity are not more stressed in our realm? That to me is true learning. Questioning is learning. Education, as it appears to me, does not address learning.

How do I cope and move forward with all of this as a teacher?

RML

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One thought on “What is Learning?

  1. I enjoyed reading this post! I think it is all just the result of years of teaching compliance and conformity. We have to push through the ruins to get to the beauty on the other side of the tunnel. I’ve seen this lack of confidence with Genius Hour. We have to push on and know that it is best for them in the end! Kuddos to you and your perserverence!

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