Note: this post is more about my experiences lately and how they relate to #ideala, so please feel free to skip it.
I’ve had a lot on my plate and my mind for the last couple of months. I’ve been looking forward to IDE for a while, but I got overwhelmed when I realized it didn’t start in mid-October, it ended in mid-October. Now it’s another thing on a very full slate.
With that said, I’m committed to getting the most out of this class. That’s part of how I understand myself as a learner: motivated, focused, overachieving. Thinking about identity and learning and feeling overwhelmed made me want to revisit part of Week 1. When we’re considering situation factors—well, no, let’s be honest: do we consider situation factors, other than #3 (Nature of the Subject)? Let’s say we do consider these factors and let’s say we do reflect on ourselves as teachers and explore our students as learners. Do we remember ourselves as learners, in all the times and ways we have been learners?
What brought this to mind wasn’t one thought or situational factor, it was a convergence of at least 3 things:
1. I dreamed I was literally under a gun in a library last night (a pure 1:1 correlation with my conscious mind at the moment).
2. Realizing that I had to set aside this day as a work from home day devoted to IDE.
3. Going through the many open tabs on my iPad, most related to libraries, books, learning, or social justice topics/events.
What these things all mean is up for interpretation, but here’s what they mean to me:
I’m still invested in being a learner. I want to know things. I want to understand the world. I want to understand other people’s perspectives on things. I want to be better and do better.
They also have other meanings:
I have the luxury (even when the costs of that luxury seem high) of working from home and taking a class on someone else’s dime.
I have an iPad and internet that I can use to facilitate my formal and informal learning.
I’m human, too, and I can love learning and want to do it and still have anxiety, fear, and confusion about myself as a learner and my particular learning context (i.e. this class). I can still feel like taking care of my non-learning self is “bad” because there’s a class I could/should be doing, even though I truly believe that if you aren’t caring for yourself, you aren’t your best learning self.
All of this listing is my desire to get at something that may be obvious to us all: our students are students and people and sometimes (often?) teenagers and lots of other ‘ands.’ The other part that occurred to me this morning is that we aren’t one learner in our lifetime. We change as our knowledge grows, as our situations changes, as we change in other areas of our lives.
I am not the same learner I was in high school. This course is different than the online course I did in the summer. My goals for myself as a learner were nonexistent at 16 and 18: I was a good student, one of the “smart” kids and I never would have thought I needed or could step up my game. Then I met my undergrad mentor who squashed that complacency and challenged me to do better and be better. She was wholly steeped in critical pedagogy and she insisted that we are all in our place in our processes, an idea at which I scoffed and then just let sit there because it confused me.
Now I’ve spent my life since then (I graduated in 2004) trying to meet the challenge she set. She challenged me but it’s my challenge. It’s not a zero-sum game: if I become better, no one loses. If I don’t, that’s ok, because it’s a process without a teleological end and I have time as long as I am here.
I’m trying to stay somewhat around a point, I promise.
I wonder, even with this course, with a worksheet, are we considering ourselves as students and as teachers and as people? Are we investigating our students and their contexts? I’m sure many of us pass around and read the Mindset List but is that it? Don’t many of us use it for a laugh? And is it really addressing mindset? (I just reread it…skeptical about Beloit’s claim that “there are always some serious issues about the future of the class and their role in the future of the nation.”)
My daughter is 14. She just started high school and the school encouraged students and parents to ‘map out’ the high school years before starting 9th grade. My daughter said to me: “why do I have to do this now–I’m only 14!.” She’s right. It’s ok to want to have direction and focus, but it’s part of our culture to assume that without a plan, you’re lost. I’m not going to get into that here, but that’s more a mindset than any list of “born before” facts. What are we assuming the students are assuming? What is that kind of construction doing for us?
I’m interested in how I can use my experiences as a learner (up to and including the present moment) to inform and enhance my teaching. I’m interested in how all teachers can and, in my opinion, should encourage students to become teachers, however small that role is writ.
My mentor once told one of her classes, that I was taking, that she was sure critical pedagogy was working (I’m paraphrasing here) because of the following story that happened:
One semester, probably Spring 2003 or 2004, my mentor was late for class. All the students were there and waiting. She was rarely ever late. We waited. We goofed around for a few minutes until it became clear she wasn’t coming. Instead of leaving, we decided to have class anyway. This was an upper division literature class so we had topics for discussion to frame our session. We had class, which I think was as normal: discussion and analysis of the novel under consideration. At the end of class, we left. A small group of us was walking and met my mentor coming in the opposite direction. She was headed to our class! The weekend had been the start of DST and she was wearing her jogging watch, which hadn’t been set to the new time, so she missed class (I think this was Spring and DST starting, might have been the Fall and DST ending…I’m horrible about thinking through the implications of the two). We told her we had class anyway.
I think she was moved because here was a class of students and young people who chose to stay and discuss the reading in the absence of the ‘teacher.’ We became the teachers. We decided collectively to pursue learning together. We probably could have done more with her, but we did something without her, and that stayed with her and it has stayed with me.
So, are we that type of teacher? Are we ok, really ok, with giving up power and control? Are we really ok with self-directing and are we able (or feel able) to prepare others to self-direct?
I don’t have any answers, but I needed to get all this out before I dive into the formal stuff for this week.