Never too Late to Learn

June 15, 2008 at 9:59 pm | Posted in uncategorized | Leave a comment

Authored by Jason Yockel
(Each student in GMST 525 has written their own post for our class blog.)

On Thursday during my free period, I saw a book sitting on the bookshelf (Do you think this is a subtle hint that administration encourages reading amongst us teachers?) in the staff lounge. It was entitled Expecting the Unexpected – Teaching Myself and Others to Read and Write by Donald Murray. It was kind of in rough shape. The cover was torn and there looked to be coffee stains all over it. However, because of this class, the title caught my attention. I flipped open to a page and read this:

It took me a long time to learn how not to teach, how to keep from interfering with their education, to follow instead of lead. I behaved as teachers were supposed to behave, and that made me a good one. When I finally taught myself to relax and learn with the class, to deal in questions rather than answer, listening instead of talking, I confused many of my students. They expected to be taught. I expected them to learn. (p. 128 )

Students expect to be taught. They wait for direction. They are passive. The problem is that we as teachers are no longer the sole authorities on content or of knowledge in the classroom. However, we can be authorities of learning. Learning is seeking, attempting, failing, reflecting, succeeding, practice. It is a constant circle of metacognition. What if we really engaged and taught kids these things in the context of their own interests? And, what if we visibly modeled that process for them? Reflected on our own successes and failures? Shared our own strategies? What if teachers were learners first?

The book goes on to say:

As I learned to teach, they began to unlearn what they had been taught in other classes and began to make use of the room I gave them. I learned how to allow them to learn and they did. (p.129)

This is an important swing in how we see our relationships with our students. Murray figured it out 15 years ago, but I think its all the more significant now.

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