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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

An Open Stance to Learning

I've heard this phrase more often in the past year or so and it often makes me think....

What stance to learning am I exhibiting each day?

In the past few years I have become more willing to tell students that "I don't know" or that they should "google it." Often, it's not that I truly don't know or that I can't fathom an answer to the question that I'm being asked; rather, I have committed myself to demonstrating that I might not have all the answers. More importantly, I have been trying to model this for my students as much as possible - so that they understand that the process of learning is never-ending and lifelong in its scope.

Lately, I've been saying to students who approach me with a question (that I know they could google or find out an answer using their own device): "I'm a teacher - not a teller. My job isn't to tell you the answers but to teach you the best way to get to the answers." Sounds cliche, I know, but it has slowly begun to take shape in the mindset of my class.

When we have an open stance to learning, it is important that we truly appreciate the value of this lens. When we are open to the questions of others - it often allows us to consolidate our own views or alter them in some way. Through discourse and reasoning, educators are sometimes even able to open the eyes of colleagues who hadn't considered certain ideas before.

Physically, an open stance to learning, is leaning forward in our chair during a discussion. It is making eye contact and nodding your head to the speaker. When we show positive body language and ask clarifying questions, we emanate interest and intrigue. These are the same behaviours that excite us when our students show them during class discussions and lessons. We certainly want to see engagement and activated thinking in our class - but can struggle to buy in to the same ideas when conversing with colleagues during professional learning activities.

Be open to the ideas of others - both the tall and the small. Learning is a loop but each new pass offers new views and fresh perspectives. Be bold enough to notice the changes and identify the possibilities.

1 comment:

Karen Evans said...

You are so right about not giving students the answers. I love your line, "I'm a teacher-not a teller." I have a great group of grade 4/5 students this year. But, many of them won’t think through a simple problem and ask me for help with things they already have the tools to figure out. I've recently started explicitly teaching critical thinking skills. What a difference it's making. Now when they ask a question they can answer on their own, I say, "Are you thinking critically?" Nine times out of ten, they are able to solve their problem. I've realized that I was doing their thinking for them!

Same thing goes for your description of what an open stance looks like. A critical thinking skill is to be able to ask clarifying questions. Attentive listening (eye contact, nodding, positive body language) is needed before you can question. You need to hear what is being said before you can clarify anything. Many of my students struggle with just the attentive listening aspect. We need to explicitly teach it.

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