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!


This is Not Goodbye

goodbye by woodleywonderworks, on Flickr
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I hate good-byes.  I know what I need.  I need more hellos.

~Charles M. Schulz

Saying “goodbye” is so hard. I am a sensitive gal at the best of times but coupled with a farewell, I usually become a teary mess. After 13 years of teaching I still cry every June as my students leave for the summer and move on to the next grade. I once asked my principal, “When will this get easier? When will I get through the end of the school year without crying?” Her response, “I hope you never do. It is you. You build the relationships and you feel so connected. That is never a bad thing.” I have drawn on her words many times as it reframed what I saw as a silly, weak, overly emotional response into an appreciation of the power, value and depth of connections. As crummy as the goodbye is, the journey and time together is always worth it.

Don’t cry because it’s over.  Smile because it happened.

~Theodor Seuss Geisel, attributed

I have long felt the journey of learning with others is a strong bonding force. Every June when I reflect on the past 10 months with my students I am amazed at all we have experienced. As we navigate learning together as a group we see each other in many different lights. We join hands through the struggles, questions, mysteries and frustrations. We celebrate the victories, discoveries and break-throughs. In 10 months we have created a shared story of learning that connects us in a special way. Through my tears in June I always try to remind myself that this amazing story doesn’t disappear once we say goodbye. It doesn’t fail to exist anymore when we move on. It indeed happened, we lived it, and we are fortunate to add it to our personal collections of stories. Years later when I run into former students they remind me of the pieces of the story they still hold close. Even though the physical structure of an experience is over, the impact of it still remains. And in some cases so do the connections.

Why am I talking about June goodbyes at the end of November? This post emerges as I sift through my emotions from last night’s EC&I 831 class. Alec summarized and reflected on our three months of learning together. Although we have two classes remaining they are dedicated to sharing student summaries so last night was a course wrap up. I cannot believe how fast the time has gone and I am not at all ready for it to end. Our journey has just started! We are picking up steam and now we have to say goodbye? I was, in my usual farewell state, tearing up as the class wound down. I have never met any of my classmates face to face and yet I feel connected to them. We have created a story of learning that is rich with risks, inspiration, enthusiasm and growth. The energy has been contagious and buoyant. The experiences and people in this course have opened my eyes, pushed my thinking, exposed me to a new world, and truly changed me. It cannot be over!

In the midst of a quasi pity party I had a moment of clarity—this course may be ending but it’s role was to be the vehicle to this moment. It was the catalyst that helped form the networks and helped demonstrate the possibilities. It was essentially the matchmaker between my PLN and me. I know a matchmaker doesn’t need to stick around once the connection has formed, their job is done. The course is not the network nor the learning. As Alec said last night, “The community is the curriculum. It is a living curriculum.” In this I understand the separation between the course and the content. I must say goodbye to the course and its defined structure. I will indeed miss Tuesday evenings with Alec, our guests, our mentors and my classmates. But the goodbyes stop there. I am leaving the structure of the course with an amazing story of learning but it is just at the beginning, there are countless more pages to fill. The connections, the networks, and the opportunities for learning are all still here and will continue to grow and evolve.

This is not a traditional blog post for me. I have no hyperlinks, no embedded videos and I suppose I defied all that I know is best practice. But today I needed to lean on my blog to process the perceived goodbye and the perceived end of something so magical and awesome. I must say I still feel slightly melancholy even though my mind logically knows the above understandings to be true. I think the feeling will subside on December 7, the morning after our last class and the official end of the course, when I see a tweet with #eci831. A little reminder that all is well. We know where to find each other—online and close by as we have been all along. Thank you, friends.