This post is week 4 of 8 in the 8 Weeks of Summer Blog Challenge for educators.
What are optimal conditions in which to learn, for you, and for students? What a great question. I have spent the last decade really grappling with this question, but not taking time to really try to come up with the answers.
When I became what I called a “connected educator,” I learned so much. I became the chief learner in my classroom.
I passionately tried to teach my students to love learning and go for broke. Some of my thoughts from 2012:
Then I moved to a new country, where the culture is so different. The educational values are not what I was used to. Education here is what I describe as more traditional. Students and parents are more competitive and good grades and being on the honor roll are the pinnacle. I have weathered my share of storms as I try to navigate this new educational landscape.
Now, this week, for the #8WeeksofSummer challenge, I was asked the question about what are the optimal learning conditions for me and my students. Today, I have a more nuanced answer than the 2012 writing above.
I have never before stopped to articulate what I think about the colliding of my experiences in eastern and western schools. I’ll take a stab at it today, but really these are just some random thoughts: I’ll keep grappling!
- East or west, I am still the chief learner in my classroom.
- I use technology in the classroom, but not as extensively to connect and collaborate as I did when I was teaching in Iowa. We use Google Drive to write poetry, pen pal letters, novels, and more. We write blog posts. We create cool things like animations on brush.ninja.
- I don’t sit at a student desk any longer. Actually, I didn’t sit at the student desk or teacher desk when children are present. Now, a student is usually sitting in my teacher desk during class.
- I am up front at times, but always strive to get the students speaking, listening, reading, and writing in English.
- Teaching English language learners has been a long and upward learning curve for me.
- There are so many wonderful opportunities to bring English to students who are learning to use the language. English truly is one of the windows to the world.
- I am working hard to teach a love for learning. I am constantly on the lookout for ways to do this beyond the seemingly all-important grades–I ask students constantly to self-reflect and subsequently self-grade, students help develop the rubrics used, we have Pearls of Wisdom, geniushour, we use Instagram hashtags that bring language use outside the classroom (#arsvocab and #arsreading).
I don’t think I have answered the question, but here are a few optimal conditions for learning worldwide:
- Have a loving and respectful relationship with students. (Last year and the coming year, I have had the joy of knowing my students since they were in kindergarten, as I was their teacher then too. What a better way to love your students than to have loved them since they were little!)
- Keep the foundation firm. Teach the curriculum that will help them grow as English users, whatever it takes.
- Trust students to own their own learning. (Optimally, when we can get away from the grades, I believe students will rise to the occasion and enjoy learning more. It’s still a hope of mine that we can take the percentages away from the report cards through grade 5, and just report how they are doing on learning the standards.)
I guess these are conditions that work for me and students.
4 thoughts on “Optimal Conditions for Learning”
Denise, I’ve always loved the “chief learner” concept I learned from you. I remember all those words of yours— and I know they are more than words, they are the foundation of your pedagogy for what will happen in your classroom, east or west. Throughout your post, you keep the student as the focus— their learning and how to help them succeed. And you do that by reflecting on your teaching, because you are truly the “chief learner.” And just as important, you share your learning and wisdom with others so we can all learn. ~ Sheri
Thank you so much for your kind words and encouragement. I have learned a lot from you about being the chief learner, and how that continues in retirement.
I am trying to keep the student as the focus! It is easy to get distracted with demands and standardized tests.
I’m enjoying this blogging challenge. It has been good to reflect on my practice.
All the best,
Denise, I’ve always loved that desk you painted!! You could “keep grappling” with the ideas, or you could simply say that those last three are golden and could probably encompass all you do when you are teaching or learning ANYwhere. Thank you for sharing this reflective piece! ~Joy
Ah, thanks, Joy. Your encouragement is always such a fresh breeze.
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