For the Love of Learning

Classroom Sign: The Mess by KTVee, on Flickr
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And just like that 8 weeks have passed since my last blog post! The magic of grad school…time dissolves while you are pouring brain cells, sweat, tears, and late, late nights into learning. My third term at the U of S has just wrapped up and in reflection I would have to say: ‎40 boxes of Kleenexes later, sleep deprived, serious lack of vitamin D, questionable loss of sanity, blurred eyesight, overloaded on caffeine, neglected dog and husband, house in disarray, random joint pain…it is all worth it! Without hesitation, I believe this to my core.

When I think about all of my learning experiences over the past three months I am staggered. It almost feels like an out of body experience not merely because I wonder how I got through it all (although I am curious how that happened!) but at a deeper level I did not think it was possible to learn so much and on so many levels. Through my coursework I have been deeply challenged, inspired, pushed, surprised, reaffirmed, and rejuvenated. I continue to experience on a profound level what it feels like to learn through inquiry and through authentic experiences. My learning has been interconnected, uncomfortable at times, messy, difficult, urgent, unpredictable, relevant, and eye opening. I love the struggle and the effort of this learning. I love the moments when epiphanies hit, my perspectives shift or an awareness settles in as I realize I have not simply learned something, I have been changed by the learning. As my studies continue so does the degree to which I am changed as a learner, a teacher, and as a person.

David Jakes on Change 2 by datruss, on Flickr
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As a learner I have discovered on a deeper level how to: wrestle with ideas and problems, persevere beyond what I believed possible, push back and be pushed back upon, connect with others to propel my learning in multi-directions, and be resourceful when the solutions are nowhere near obvious. I continue to be inspired by educators who think outside the box while supporting and encouraging others to do the same. I am a self-declared nerd so I am comfortable in saying I am in awe of what our brains can do when pushed to create, connect, wonder, and stretch. I am yet again reminded how good it feels for my brain to form those new connections and realizations; how good it feels to think in new ways, add new dimensions onto the lens through which I see, and come to a deeper level of understanding that gives me that “wow” feeling. It makes me think so much about my own students and it renews my commitment to facilitate their “wow” moments. I believe it is those moments that reel us in and create life-long learners; learners who have a thirst for more and who want to get messy and wild in their learning.

Anyone who stops learning is old by klbeasley, on Flickr
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As a teacher I have been further inspired to seek out authentic, rich experiences for learning. I am reaffirmed in the value of inquiry and the importance of students living the process of learning…realizing it is mucky and tough but at the same time discovering their ability to work through it, and the strength that is gained though collaboration and connections. The value of relationships continues to come through loud and clear for me. Relationships are truly at the heart of all that we do. I have come to realize that relationships and connections take many forms and they do not need to be face-to-face to have depth, meaning, and impact. I now clearly see that one of my roles as a teacher is to support my students in making genuine connections beyond their classroom and school walls. They need to interact and engage with people who have many different experiences, ideas, perspectives, and passions. We are changed by the people we connect with and my students deserve to know this lesson far sooner than I did.

Let Them Fly by KTVee, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License Photo by  KTVee 

As a person I have become more confident in my ability to express my thinking, more brave in my ruckus making, more thoughtful in my opinions, and more grounded in my beliefs about teaching and learning. I was reminded on an extreme level that I can use my  perfectionism to be productive, however wrangling it when I am overwhelmed is like riding a wild bull. And I was indeed bucked off more than once this term. I have lived knowledge of the power of a network and how their support makes anything possible. I have learned that I have to trust my gut and my instincts. This is not a new lesson for me, but each time I am faced with it I think it resonates deeper. It is a lesson that is not to be learned in one shot, I need to put myself out there repeatedly to learn how to trust myself.

Think Different by KTVee, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License Photo by  KTVee 

I have more specifics to share about my learning in relation to instructional design and my Master’s project but it has to wait. Tomorrow I am hitting the road in hope of giving these braincells some time to regroup for the Spring term…my last term of my Master’s program.

So I am leaving this view…

A lovely and talented MacBook... by fd, on Flickr
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For this view:

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

I will definitely learn about Brazil while I am there but more importantly I will learn all the lovely and amazing things a four year old niece and a 2 year old nephew have to teach their “Auntie Tan”. These will be lessons of the heart and spirit, and I cannot wait!

Ruckus Maker

where the wild things by .Va i ♥ ven. Arp, on Flickr
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As a teacher I always feel there are two New Years in a single year—September and January. I find it a welcome opportunity to evaluate and realign my goals, personally and professionally. Although I don’t refer to my professional goals as resolutions, in this context using Wikipedia’s definition, a commitment to goals, projects or reforming of habits, it fits. Call them what you will—goals, resolutions, plans, objectives.

Frankly, I prefer my professional new year’s resolutions over my personal ones as they are more about exploring new ideas and experiences with my students and colleagues, and less about what I am not doing, like losing weight and saving money. My professional resolutions always seem to be dynamic, exciting and evolving, while my personal January resolutions tend to be generic, familiar and tired. Don’t get me wrong, I have personal goals and I am a very goal oriented person but I don’t do well with the whole “it is January, ergo I need to come up with some goals”. It may work for some people but I tend to create my goals as life unfolds, January or not.

After the holidays I read through a backlog of Seth Godin’s blog posts, and I was yet again reminded how much his words resonate with me. In his most recent posts a common theme spoke to me and it is one I needed to hear to be renewed for the upcoming term. It is about committing to being a ruckus maker, being dedicated to bringing about change.

I think my desire to bring about change found me before I found it. In my search for ways to infuse technology into learning I stumbled upon many opportunities and many roadblocks, many tools and many policies, many questions and yet not as many answers, or at least ones I was willing to accept. These all led me to the same place—wondering why. Why can’t we look at this differently? Why can’t we try this for the sake of our students? Why is this door closed? It was a if I had re-entered the toddler “why” phase. These many “whys” fuelled my strong commitment to bringing about change—change with a purpose, with a goal, with meaning. All grounded in, “What is best for our students and their learning?”

What I have discovered is that as you start asking “why” to a broad scope of people and start offering “what if” options to be explored, the more the doors open and the more change can stretch its wings and find some room to fly around. Instead of change flexing its muscles and evoking fear, I am learning that giving it a crack of sunlight to grow and become established is far more effective and far less threatening.

I rounded up 6 themes from Seth’s posts that I think will give me strength and courage to push forward. I hope they speak to you, too!

Make a Commitment

You don’t need a new plan for next year. You need a commitment.

It’s always been this way” is not a reason to keep on keeping on. Challenge the status quo.

As soon as you accept that just about everything in our created world is only a few generations old, it makes it a lot easier to deal with the fact that the assumptions we make about the future are generally wrong, and that the stress we have over change is completely wasted.

Ask Great Questions

A great question is one you can ask yourself, one that disturbs your status quo and scares you a little bit.

Why not be great?

You get to make a choice. You can remake that choice every day, in fact. It’s never too late to choose optimism, to choose action, to choose excellence. The best thing is that it only takes a moment — just one second — to decide.

Make a Difference

One option is to struggle to be heard whenever you’re in the room…

Another is to be the sort of person who is missed when you’re not.The first involves making noise. The second involves making a difference.

Create a Hassle

…Great storytellers and artists and ruckus makers manage to insulate themselves from the people they’re going to hassle. And the job of those that are being hassled by the commotion is to be hassled by the commotion. No commotion, no job.

In place of new year’s resolutions I am making a commitment to the above statements, for myself and for my students. While I believe I have long been committed to these ideas, I love the clarity and focus found here on this list. I think they will help serve as my compass,  particularly when the road gets rough and the ruckus maker needs a reminder as to why a ruckus is worth making.

How will you create a ruckus this year?