Learner or Teacher?


man working on a laptop
credit: smart-elearning.eu

The other day, while reading fellow blogger and author Carrie Rubin’s post about authors, gender, standards, and profanity/violence, I replied with my perspective as a teacher who worked with middle and high school students for many years. As a reading specialist and as a writer myself, I required lots of writing from my students and taught them that reading and writing go hand-in-hand.

My reply to her post:  Characters need to be believable and readers need to decide what’s appropriate for themselves (or with a parent, if the reader is a preteen/adolescent); a rating system isn’t necessary. I didn’t give my response a second thought when I hit Send….. I naturally define my thinking from a teacher’s perspective.

Or do I?

When Carrie thanked me for the ‘teacher perspective,’ I kind of chuckled and thought, “You’re welcome. There it is! My ‘teacher-filter’ is in full-swing again!”

But I got to thinking…..

How we learn is a big part of who I am as both learner and educator. When I had my own classes, I was constantly analyzing my instructional delivery:

  • Is it on-point?
  • Is it fun?
  • Am I being concise enough, while still including key information?
  • Am I being verbose, boring them to tears?
  • Am I talking over their heads?
  • Is it interesting to them? Can they connect what they know with what I’m teaching? (value leads to ownership: What’s in it for me?)
  • Are they getting it? How do I know? How do they know?

And all of this chatter was happening in my head while I was in the middle of instruction. Every. Day. All. The. Time. Holy cow!!

Now, as an instructional coach, I have this internal dialogue when I facilitate professional development sessions or do demonstration lessons. I also often walk into classrooms and think, “Wow! So many ways this could be taught!”

So, as I write this post, I’m thinking to myself (as I often do when I write): So what? Why am I sharing these particular thoughts? 

And in this instance, I realize this:  My perspective isn’t that of a teacher as much as it is of a learner.

I want someone to teach me who:

  • is on-point & funny/engaging/approachable
  • gives key details, but asks lots of questions to engage my thinking – often referred to as Socratic Teaching… I just call it ‘giving the learner a chance to think’!
  • speaks a language I understand – this has nothing to do with linguistics and everything to do with understanding ‘audience’
  • connects the information he or she is teaching with something in my life – a hook that pulls me in
  • a good story-teller who practices brevity
  • notices if I’m getting it or not… acknowledges when I’m struggling and puts the empowerment of struggle in its rightful place

I love learning. I love awesome teaching just as much….. whether it’s an author who makes characters ‘real’ through believable words and actions, a presenter who makes a tough subject relatable, or a parent that helps a child understand (and appreciate) diverse thinking and opinions.

little girl studying in school
credit: businessinsider.com

I used to tell my high school students that if I didn’t learn something new each day, then it was a wasted day. That may sound like a bit of a stretch, but to sell the idea of learning for life’s sake (not for a test) to kiddos was a big part of my ‘mission’ you might say. Plant the seed. Lay the foundation. Whether five or fifty, learning is for life.

plant growing in soil
credit: wealthenthusiast.com

Learner or teacher?

Learner, first!  Always.