Instruction,  Life,  Process

Learner or Teacher?


man working on a laptop

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

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

Learner or teacher?

Learner, first!  Always.


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