When I think about education I think about kids coming to class happy and wanting to learn. I think about myself, as a teacher, happy and wanting to be in the classroom. With combined happiness, we help energize each other. I see students grow in their thinking and knowledge, relationships with peers, and their love of learning. While it is perception, and this may be an over generalization, that kids are not excited to come to school. If both teachers and students come to energize each other and we want to push one another to excel, why is it on most days we just do not feel like learning? Or, why is it do we not feel like working the work? Is there such an apathy on our parts that anything resembling deep learning is to much of a struggle? I don’t have questions to those answers but I do believe that we, students and teachers, have a role to play. The role is to show each other we are learners and willing to learn every day.
We can’t be learners every minute but we can be in a state of readiness. I am ready to teach despite the challenges I face outside the classroom that seem to loom large and suffocate my creativity and teaching affluence. As a student, I can be ready to learn despite the challenges I face at home, on the bus, or inside myself. The realities of life, whether old or young, teacher or student, seem to bring us all to the point of tapping out like a WWE wrestler. This is when it is essential for us to energize each other.
Students well know the moods and habits of their teachers. Likewise teachers know moods and habits of their students. Wouldn’t it be great if we help each other to be energized? Rhetorically, yes, it would be awesome for such a relationship. In fact, I would bet every teacher and student would cherish such a relationship. I find this kind of relationship with many of my students who come in and make me smile and I, in turn, make them smile. I find that when I am engaged in learning they are engaged in learning. When I am engaged in mind bending thinking they may think I am weird, but they do participate in the journey of thinking. I am captured by their questions, to answer them, while they are more then willing to answer mine. This is how I am energized. It is this synergistic relationship, learning to learn, that is under rated.
Why is classroom atmosphere under rated? Why is this hard to come by today? First, classroom synergy is fed by a teacher’s want to learn and not just teach. I remember the teachers I disliked the most in my schooling. They were the ones who had nothing to learn from me, as if I had nothing important to contribute to class. I do remember my favorite teachers because they were the ones who were interested to learn with me. When my teacher was engaged in learning, I was engaged in learning. If not, I could care less. Being engaged in learning with students vs. just being the teacher is terribly under rated. What might be some hallmarks of a teacher who is learning with students:
- I engage in a relationship with every student and see myself as a learner with the student. Easier said than done. It is too easy to see the form of the student as just a student rather than the real person with something to offer to me.
- A teacher genuinely listens. How many times, and I am guilty of this too, do we not even listen to the question or answer having already decided the outcome? I can’t learn if I can’t listen.
- If a student knows something that I do not know, do I feel threatened? Am I the omniscient source and resource? Of course not! I can learn alongside my students as they inform me of their lives and perspectives that very well may change my own.
- I am not afraid to take risks in front of my students. This shows them I am willing to go outside the box helping them to learn, and I show myself I am willing to learn by outside of my own box.
Under rated learning, or learning between teachers and students, is important to the classroom dynamic.