As part of the Making Learning Connected MOOC (#clmooc) I've been reflecting on teaching and learning over the month of July. Part of the process is making things and interacting during various cycles. One of the challenges for me in a larger and more unstructured environment is getting things done when there is a great deal of flexibility. One of the great things about the whole process is seeing the opinions and work of a diverse group of teachers from around the world as they share what they do and what they are interested in. This reflection fits into the fourth cycle of the Massive Online Open Course and the challenge was to share a credo about teaching.
Here are some of the things that I believe:
I believe in rigid minimal structure.
You set out the parameters and allow the learning to take place in that. Constraints can be wonderful as they provide a space to explore. The limits allow for focus and that makes things more manageable.
One of the best professional development opportunities that I ever had was the Great Teachers Workshop, which was started by David Gotshall. It's a process that allows teachers to get together and share what they do and why they do in a supportive and fun environment. The workshop allows you to reflect on what teaching means and it is an amazing jolt of energy for those who start to feel a bit lost in what they are doing. It's a great thing to do. That's where I first heard about the idea of rigid minimal structure as a way for organizing things.
I believe in people.
The biggest challenge in teaching and learning is helping people believe that they can do it. Fear of failure can end things before they begin. When it seems impossible it is hard for someone to do something. Believing in learners and their ability to do things is so important. People bring so much based on their experiences and helping someone realize that can provide a spark that allows learning to flow more easily.
Teaching always involves people and people are amazing. The challenges that are faced every day make people who they are and that accumulation of experience and battles lost and won will shape how someone approaches learning something new. Far too many people have had bad experiences in school and creating a supportive and encouraging space for learning to happen can make all the difference.
I believe in balance.
Work can be fun and amazing and sustaining, but there needs to be a break sometimes between work and life. Having friends and family outside of work is important and having space between them is better for all parts of the equation. It provides perspective and space and time to reflect on those other parts of our lives.
One of the best things to help keep things organized for me is to schedule things and keep my work email and personal email separate. Teaching can be all consuming, so your evenings can fill up with work and then it just never seems to end. Disconnecting and going outside and walking around is a good thing. More time doesn't equal better work and realizing that is an important step in finding the right balance between your life and your work.
I believe that learning is teaching and teaching is learning.
It is a journey and a cycle. To share and give and receive is a wonderful virtuous circle. Sharing always gives you more than you put in.
It's always great to find out something new and if you teach you will learn and if you learn something it makes you a better teacher. Listening and speaking, speaking and listening, and then repeating the cycle is a good thing. There is always more to learn and share which is why most teachers are in this for life.