Friday, November 17, 2017

Adventures in Learning

I was recently asked to talk about something that has impacted on my teaching over the last couple of years.
At first I thought, “Yeah, no worries. I can do that.”
But it wasn’t as easy as I thought.
There’s been a lot of things that have helped to develop my teaching and it is hard to pin down one thing.

I thought about teaching science which I was previously not very confident about. My inquiry into SOLO taxonomy gave me a clearer idea of how learning can progress and be extended. The concept of See, Think, Wonder offered a great platform for introducing and expanding ideas. I thought about learning Mandarin with the children. I considered being part of the Flat Connections project last year or even working with Google docs and apps. My work as SENCo and the Sue Larkey course that I took part in have definitely enriched my teaching ….

But when I really reflected on what has made a difference, I found that there is a larger theme here that all of these things flow on from.

There was a time not so many years ago that I felt in a slump with teaching. My enthusiasm was waning and I didn’t feel as effective in my role as I once did. Then I met, and was fortunate enough to work with, some people who were passionate about learning - not just the children’s learning but their own. I think now that you cannot have one without the other.

They helped encourage me to try new things, move out of my comfort zone and exposed me to some very interesting schools of thought. I read articles, watched TED talks, took part in Twitter chats and VLN streams.

Reading about the Learning Pit, Growth Mindset and Action Learning helped me to value the importance of making mistakes as an opportunity to progress. My understanding of myself as a learner grew.

This fed through to my classroom practise and my interactions with the children. I would sit on the floor with the children and take part in Mandarin lessons. They would see me try and fail and laugh and try again. The Mandarin speakers in the class would kindly help me and I would accept that help gratefully.

I would explore the nature of science with the class and we would all put on our scientist’s faces and say, “I wonder.”

I would make mistakes when modelling writing and ask the children what to do.
I would jokingly say, “Should I cry and throw my pencil?”
They would always laugh and reply, “ No Andrea, you just keep trying.”

It became a saying in my class, not from me but generated by the children themselves, that school is for trying.

This was most evident for a particular child who was very anxious about trying. He was stuck and progress was limited as taking risks with his learning was unsettling for him. But eventually this child became the one leading the others with the mantra, “School is for trying.” Once he realised the power of ‘having a go’, his confidence blossomed. He delighted in his attempts and not just his successes. It was lovely to see him relax into learning.

I needed to relax into learning too. The children became my role models. We share our learning and it’s made teaching a more exciting place to be.

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