Recently I began season 4 of the #IMMOOC experience. If you haven’t checked it out before you should. This is my third time participating in the Innovation Journey with thousands of other educators across the world. It is some of the most energizing professional development I do all year. This year, as part of the program I am reading and reflecting on the book, Learner Centered Innovation by Katie Martin. Each week contains a choice of different blog prompts. This week, I chose: Why is it critical to spark curiosity and ignite passions in learners?
In the introductory chapter, called What If?, Katie says, “If we want to change how students learn, we must change how teachers learn.” This really connected with me because I often work with teachers as part of being a technology integration coach. I see some fantastic teachers who really find ways to connect their content with kids. They are creative and innovative and I really admire them. I also see teachers that are stuck. They are afraid to evolve. They resist challenges to try something different because it was “not they way they learned.” As Katie puts it, “Many teachers rely on the models of how they have always taught, despite the resources at their fingertips or those of their students.” Teachers create what they experience.
This is a part of education that we need to change. To change it, we need to change the way teachers learn.
Our students need empowering and authentic learning experiences which stretch their thinking and promote creative solutions. Students become passionate learners when they are given the opportunity to #ChaseCuriosity. Teachers become important to these learners not because they are the holders of some special content which is release in small doses, but because they are the ones who guide students to ask critical questions, then assist them along the path of discovery as solutions are sought to real-life problems. To get to the point where students are given this voice and choice, we must first allow teachers to have the same experiences with their own learning that we want for the students. Teachers create what they experience.
We need our teachers to have empowering and authentic learning experiences that stretch their thinking and promote creative solutions. We need to empower teachers to be part of the problem/solution process with innovations that must take place in order for student learning to flourish. Teachers need opportunities to explore their own curiosities and find ways to bring their passions into the classroom. After all, what good does it do the world if you keep the best ideas for yourself. Teachers must feel supported to take risks. Some may need to see the safety net; some may be ready to jump in head first, but they will all need to know someone will be there to help them if they need it. These same things are needed from our students. If teachers experience them first, they will recognize the benefits and begin to expect them from our students. Teachers create what they experience.
Every teacher is different. They teach different ages or levels of kids. They have different areas of content specialties. They have different areas of need and different areas of strengths. Therefore teachers need personalization of learning as much as students do. They need to be offered choice and voice in their professional learning opportunities. Give them the chance to explore their strengths even deeper and the learn ways to grow in their areas of weakness. Flexibility in the when, where, and how teachers learn should be the guiding principle. At Milaca Public Schools, we have taken two days of the calendar that teachers no longer need to show up for work. Instead, teachers to create their own learning plans for professional growth and development. They do two days of learning when they want, where they want, and how they want. If you are interested in the FlexPD model, please check out my earlier post about how we have instituted this at Milaca Public Schools. Teachers create what they experience.
What a perfect heading that Katie Martin uses on page 8 of Learner Centered Innovation. She also has a great TEDx Talk on it. Teachers DO create what they experience. As Katie says, we have not just an opportunity, but rather an obligation to change how students learn. If we are serious about what to change how students learn, then we must first change how teachers learn. If we want to spark curiosity and ignite passion in students, teachers must be the ones that first #ChaseCuriosity and model that #LearningMattersMost.