The Point of Learning

I don’t mean the “point” of learning in why we need to learn. I mean the actual cognitive place we must find in order to learn.

This year has been the hardest year of school I’ve ever had. I fight battles every single day with students over the simple act of thinking. I have had some begin to see the value, but 90% are still pushing back on nearly everything we do. If you were to come to my room, I think the most common phrases you would hear are “Bro…” and “I don’t know.”

Will Chamberlain had some thoughts a few weeks ago about the “I don’t know” response. It is resignation. It is a student openly stating that they are not going to put in the effort to think about a question or problem. And it is totally acceptable in our schools. Rather than abolishing “I don’t know,” teachers and schools traditionally respond by giving the answer.

I think the point of learning is when students feel challenged and supported at the same time. This balance comes from every teacher, administrator, and student in the building working toward the same goal. The point of learning is the hardest part of school because it is in an educational “sweet spot” where everything is working together the way it is meant to.

When you’re trying to reach that point, these are a few things to consider:

  1. Does your space communicate the physical aspect of learning? Is your space open, flexible, and inviting? Or is it static, “cookie cutter,” and bland? If we can adapt our space (I know we all have limitations) to accentuate learning rather than compliance, you’ll begin moving in the right direction.
  2. Do you meet the needs of your students? As teachers, we have an eye for what our students are proficient and deficient in…we use formative assessments to judge progress and make changes if necessary. What we can’t do, though, is read our student’s minds. Ask them questions. Have them reflect on their learning. Make learning a discussion rather than an announcement.
  3. Do you work alone, or are you connected? The most important piece of working in a school is being connected with your peers. Find someone to work with as much as possible. Eat lunch together, plan together, form goals together. The accountability and the support will help you do your job better. At the same time, consider forming a digital PLN through Twitter, Ning networks, or even your professional organization (NSTA, NMCT, etc). No two points look the same. What is yours like? Feel free to share how you overcome some of the hurdles in the comments.

photo credit: ogimogi via photopin cc

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