Friday, July 12, 2013

Teaching ≠ Learning

(Photo by Richard Shaw)

I love being a teacher.  Surprisingly, though, my favorite thing about being a teacher is not actually teaching. My favorite thing about teaching is the learning.  Teaching and learning are not the same thing.  My most rewarding moments as a teacher come from being involved with the learning process, and sometimes that process has nothing to do with "teaching" anything.

Today I was invited to talk with a number of teachers involved in a summer institute professional development through An Estuary. They spend all week involved in a variety of different sessions held by Margaret Roth and Shelly Blake-Plock.  These teachers learned about topics ranging from Design Thinking and badge development to policy and funding in urban schools.  Today, I sat with them during their "unconference" style last day, in which we discussed a number of self-directed topics that were identified as important to this group.

(Photo from An Estuary
What really struck me was that this was not your typical group of teachers that might expect to find at a technology professional development.  Most people in this group expressed a deep desire to learn more about EdTech because they did not know about teaching with technology.  This was a group eager to learn about a new pedagogy because they deeply recognized they would be replaced and ineffective if they did not embrace a new wave of learning taking place among our students.

I am not sure what Margaret and Shelly "taught" these teachers this week, but I do know what they learned.  And more importantly, I know how they changed, because they shared with the group what they would take away from this experience.  One teacher stood in front of this group and was brought to tears when she shared that she finally felt like people had taken the time to help her learn about all these things she had no idea existed or how to use in the classroom.  She was walking away with a community of other teachers that could help her continue to grow as a professional.

It reminded me of what I strive to achieve with my students.  It has nothing to do with what I teach them.  My students have a capacity to learn one thousand times more than I could ever teach them, so why should I be so pompous as to think I should be the sole distributor of information?  My job is to create an environment in which as much learning as possible can take place, and then support and cultivate my students' drive this desire to learn and grow.

What are you doing to support learning with your students and colleagues?  How can we help the people around us be inspired to learn and grow?


  1. Great post Jenna! I completely agree that we are on this journey together with our students. I also love the learning aspect of teaching, and we can pass that enthusiasm along to our students and colleagues!

  2. Well said! We do a great disservice to our students when we say "Well, I taught that. I don't know why they didn't get it." If we keep the focus on learning, we are forced to get out of our comfort zones and help our students learn in a way that meets their needs, not necessarily ours. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Chris, I agree, I think it is all about moving teachers and students out of their comfort zone. Sometimes I forget that if I don't learn from my students I am probably not doing my job very well...

  4. Jenna,

    Great Post. You really hit on why I prefer the term "lead learner" for the principal. Just as you strive to provide the type of environment that is conducive to learning in your classroom, our admin team strives to create that type of environment for our teachers. That starts with modeling. When an admin can model professional learning and educational risk-taking, teachers will follow. Encourage, model, encourage and then model some more...

    1. This is so important, and yet I did not even think to mention it here! Thank you for reminding me that our admin teams needs to model learning and support our staff by showing them that they value risk-taking.