3 Reasons Teachers Must Be Learners Too

What’s Really New? I recently listened to a podcast episode “Why Adults Lose the Beginner’s Mind” and I was struck again by how important it is for us to continue to learn and explore and make mistakes throughout our lives:

The older we get, the harder it is for us to learn, to question, to reimagine. This isn’t just habit hardening into dogma. It’s encoded into the way our brains change as we age. And it’s worsened by an intellectual and economic culture that prizes efficiency and dismisses play.

Why Adults Lose the Beginner’s Mind

My work this semester with games also reminds me that learning something new does not have to be serious learning and exploration. As the podcast noted, our culture dismisses the importance of play and yet there is so much science to support that we need play for personal and societal reasons. Teachers take time this summer to learn and play and explore and make mistakes. You and your students will be the better for it. I really want to learn how to play more role-playing games after dipping my toe in this semester. Pop culture has driven me into a serious longing to join the Dungeons and Dragons world. Who wants to be my guide? This summer one easy way to become a learner is to join the National Writing Project’s Write Across America writing marathon where you can learn about the country in a wonderful warm community of writers. Come join me by signing up here. You can learn more here. If you are really looking for a way to join the National Writing Project community and step up your game as a writing teacher then I recommend signing up for the Morehead Writing Project’s Online Summer Institute!

What’s New? Being a learner is important for all these reasons, but I also think being a lifelong learner helps you be more authentic with your students about your passions, helping your students understand your process for learning and growing so that they can see that journey and understand how that journey can vary, and demonstrate through your example the power of authentic writing. Best of all, doing these things together and sharing these experiences with your students can build community in powerful ways and help every member of that class community grow as humans.

Original: My family hasn’t taken our summer vacation yet, but I have embarked on two adventures that have challenged me and helped me grow as a person and teacher. First, I participated in Lexington Poetry Month for the first time. I didn’t reach a poem a day, but I thought posting 12 poems was a pretty respectable first showing. Second, I am currently participating in the CLMOOC (this my third year participating). Both of these experiences have forced me to try new things, sometimes well outside my comfort zone, and experiment with new skills, sometimes not very successfully.

In the midst of my adventures, my 15-year-old son embarked on one of his own. Although he has been playing the viola for six years, he recently decided to start playing the ukulele. While my husband was afraid a new instrument would take away from his viola practice, other musicians assured us the opposite would true. Learning a new instrument would be beneficial to his musical toolbox teaching him new ways to think about music, training his ear in new ways, and exercising his fingers. In short, learning a second instrument would give him depth as a musician. This made me think about my experiences with LexPoMo and CLMOOC. While both were personal challenges I embarked on because I wanted to participate, the experience was also beneficial to me as a teacher – even though neither is specifically designed as a professional development experience. Just as learning a second instrument gave my son depth as a musician, new learning experiences can give teachers depth as practitioners. Not all professional development has to be tied to our professional experience. This led me to think of three reasons why teachers need to be learners too.

Learn For Yourself

Too often we put our own needs last. It is healthy and beneficial to the others in your life if you regularly spend some time doing something that you want to do for just you. Maybe you want to learn to paint or play the ukulele, even if there is no logical reason to do it, learning something new can be fun and it can be really good for your brain. It is always good to get out of ruts and to take a detour to experience something new. It doesn’t matter how old you are, learning something new for yourself can be beneficial. You can learn and grow as a person by challenging yourself to learn something new.

Learn For Your Colleagues

Learning something new will teach you something about teaching. Most professional development is delivered by lecture or reading. Immersing yourself in the experience of learning something new either in a formal class or by studying prepared materials can help you better understand teaching. In addition, your new experience (and skills?) bring something fresh and interesting to staff meetings and the lunchroom. Hobbies and interests make us more interesting people and better colleagues. Who knows how your growth and new experiences will benefit your colleagues as well as yourself.

Learn For Your Students

One of the problems with teaching content we know really well is that we lose touch with the challenge of learning how to write an argument or solve an equation for the first time – this is the curse of knowledge. I can remember taking my first computer programming class as a senior in high school. This was the very first time the class was taught in my school and our teacher was, in fact, taking a college class at the same time we were learning. Sometimes we would find ourselves in trouble that our teacher could not solve because he was not expert yet. Learning together was probably the most fun I’d ever had in school. We all made mistakes and we regularly crashed the computers. Yet we learned so much along the way because there was no real master in the room. We all took turns sharing our newly-acquired and often hard-won knowledge. Becoming a learner will make us better teachers because we will better understand the struggles of our students as well as how we can better support their struggle.

When was the last time you learned something new just because you wanted to? Why do you think teachers should also be learners? Should teachers be learners too? Are you a teacher learner?

Author: Deanna Mascle
#TeachingWriting and leading #NWP site @ Morehead State (KY): Passionate about #AuthenticWriting, #DeeperLearning, #PBL, #Ungrading, and #HyperDocs.

1 thought on “3 Reasons Teachers Must Be Learners Too

  1. I agree wholeheartedly, and would add that putting yourself in the position of newbie also builds empathy. We often teach what we know and like; struggling is good for us, if for nothing more than to be reminded what the experience is like.

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