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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

There's a lot I love about being a teacher. Teaching is one of those rare professions that keeps your brain young, allowing you to continue your own journey as a student and a lifelong learner. We as educators speak often about creating lifelong learners, but if we aren't buying into it ourselves, then our students don't stand a chance.

Michelle Pfeiffer once said that being an actor allows her, with every new character, to learn something new, immersing herself in a distinct universe with each project. Being a teacher is that and so much more.

Keeping It Real

Each school year brings new people into your life. Each unit and lesson brings new perspectives. Each failure, when looked at formatively, can help you solve new problems. Each success, when used reflectively, can be even greater the next time.

Sharing oneself, thinking aloud, and being honest about what's working and what isn't is not about making the environment "softer." It's about creating a classroom in which students are at their best in attitude and character. It's about classroom management being better because students want to be there, learning from a teacher who is also willing to learn from them. "The one who does the teaching is the one who's doing the learning," as they say.

Teaching is a job that encourages your own growth because to do it well requires your own continuous education. Some might say that's a bad thing, but growth is about facing your demons -- or just your imps -- and dueling yourself for greater knowledge.

Stepping Outside Your Comfort Zone

I believe true growth as a person can happen only by challenging yourself with situations that are not familiar to you. Throwing yourself into a job in which you can encounter people of different ethnicities and religions and with different philosophies, learning styles, and backgrounds can only cause you to grow as a person, and public education provides that environment.

And you never know how that will eventually translate. For some, it will mean a growth in empathy. For others, the fact that your brain learns something new every day becomes a means to fight old age. Remember those nuns from Wales featured in Time magazine a few years back? This group of long-lived nuns had theories about their own longevity as it related to their active brain activities. Learning, they believed, kept Alzheimer's at bay and helped their minds stay intact even while their bodies aged.

Whatever your beliefs are, the fact is that a good teacher continues to be a student. This could mean you continue to be a student in a graduate class, or you could simply be a student of your own school community.

In my ten years of teaching, I learned more from other teachers, my students, and their parents than I learned from any class in my teacher-credential program. (True, that's not difficult to do -- but that's another post.) In turn, when they saw my own enthusiasm for learning, students were more inclined to learn from me. And that's how my own happiness and growth has translated into the success of my students.

What impact has a passion for lifelong learning had on your teaching? Please share your thoughts.

Comments (111)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Tessa Allen's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I have found with my experience that I love going to school each day ready to spark a classroom into learning. Observing my students interact, learn, and discuss lessons learned is the most rewarding. Especially when you are recalling details to introduce a lesson and they reflect on previously lessons. I feel students learn best frome their own reflections of what they have learned and sharing with others. Journaling is an essential part of my classroom routines. Not only do we journal for free choice, but we also have math journaling. My second graders enjoy listening to peers read reflections and have discussions about particular subject areas.

Monica's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I really enjoyed reading this blog. I have recently started graduate school and have found joy in learning again. I always attended professional development classes, etc. however, graduate school has opened my eyes to a new world of learning. If we expect our students to be life-long learners, then we need to be life-long learners as well.

Jeanne's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

This article put a smile on my face because it it so true that teachers are life long learners themselves. I do learn a lot from my colleagues, students, and parents. I don't think I would enjoy teaching if I didn't learn from everyone around me. I feel that I bring my lessons to life because I am also learning new things. It's hard to remember some of the things I learned in elementary school, so sometimes I feel like I am learning it all over again. This article inspired me!

RC's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

It sounds like you have found your calling. It's amazing that when we step out of our comfort zone to try something new, we can find what we were meant to do. A few years ago, I began the school year teaching first grade but because of enrollment, I was moved to kindergarten three weeks after school started. I didn't think I would ever teach kindergarten but now I absolutely love it!

I applaud you for the work you do with disabled children. My niece is in a special needs preschool class in our public school system and she has shown tremendous amounts of progress since she started school. She has so much determination and spirit. I am happy that she has a teacher who sees that in her and like you, looks for what she can do and not what she can't do.

jkopelman's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Teaching for me is a calling, an exciting way of life, as I
always need to be flexible, ready and willing to learn, and
very organized. Each teaching year gives me the opportunity to
become better and better!

mak's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am surrounded by life long learners. I ride to school discussing my day and corroborating with friends about scenarios and possible ideas to use and then the day begins. Every day is different and exciting and brings new challenges. My colleagues are uplifting with humor and ideas. The students (kindergarteners)respond in so many exciting ways. Nothing is more exciting than a day in the life of my classroom.

R. Jackson's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Before I went into teaching, I wanted to be a professional student because I love learning so much. As a teacher I am learning something new every day. The lessons come from my students, parents, co-workers and from my own search for knowledge. My learning never ceases.

Pam McLean's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Making discoveries for myself in areas where I am not familiar or comfortable reminds me of how my students feel when learning something new. I can relate to their reluctance, laziness, sometimes lack of interest, and fear of failure. Knowing that students feel the same way I do at times allows me to stay focused on presenting curriculum in various ways that will hopefully lead to successful learning for all learners in my classroom.

dk's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

This article is refreshing to read. I love learning from my children, parents, and teachers. I like to bring back fun and exciting lessons to my classroom. It makes the learning exciting.

Amanda 's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

There are many reasons that I love teaching as well. I agree with the reaseons that you've posted, focusing on the idea that learning keeps your mind young. I am a fifth year teacher in Connecticut, currently working on my master's degree in reading through Walden University, and I consider myself to be a life-long learner. I like the idea that you say it keeps the mind young. Obviously, I am furthering my education and knowledge through taking classes, but even when I am not taking classes, I am always reading about new teaching methods, styles, ideas, etc., to put to good use in my classroom. My students and I deserve to have "fresh" learning in our room. Thanks for the article.

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