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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

Christy's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am new to this whole blogging thing also. I think it is pretty neat though. This is also my third year of teaching and I love every minute of it. It would be bad if you hated your job and dreaded going every day. It is a blessing to be in the teaching profession.

Heather H's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I haven't always had a passion for learning. I had it at a young age; then it seemed to kind of fizzled out and returned again when I started college. While I may have whined and complained about papers, studying, etc., I knew deep down that I loved learning. It feels so energizing and empowering to gain new perspectives and knowledge about the world around me. I remember being excited when a professor of one of my teaching classes informed us that becoming teachers meant we would become lifelong learners. While a million thoughts ran though my head imagining how this would occur, I welcomed the challenge. I now know after teaching for 5 years, that I definitely learn many new things each day. I love it!

Stephanie's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I completely agree with you that a teacher continues to learn throughout their career. This learning may not always be collegiate, but rather from other colleagues within the school or mostly, the students in the classroom. I'm a substitute teacher who currently is involved in a master's program but spends four to five days in a classroom a week in elementary and secondary schools. I learn more from being in the school from those students than I would learn being in a college classroom - the reason for this is because you see behaviors, reactions, learning styles, etc. firsthand and that's valuable as you are trying to develop your own ways of classroom management and other aspects of teaching. This isn't to say that throughout my teaching career I will not continue to engage myself in classes outside of the classroom, but I will be learning everyday when I enter that classroom despite how many years of teaching or how many degrees I hold. The students are some of the best teachers for a teacher.

Stephanie Rice
Substitute teacher (1-12)
Oswego, NY

Pamela's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Heather,
Thank you for sharing your thoughts on teaching. I am a Kindergarten teacher and I would agree with much of what you said. I know I learn something new everyday from a student, colleague, or parent. In order for us to instill in our students the importance of learning everyday, I think we need to model it. I love to tell my students that I learned something new and I often tell them I am still in school learning. I am working on my masters in reading and literacy and it is good for me to share what I learn with my students.
I like to hear from others who love teaching as much as I do. It is truly a passion.

Donna 's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Hi Heather:

I concur with you on the idea that teachers are lifelong learners. If we weren't then we would not be the best role models of what we expect. Teachers not only teach a certain grade or subject, they teacher life to impact students. The perfect example is by promoting education through oneself. My passion for teaching comes from the foundation that students are willing to learn, as a teacher I have to provide the appropriate and adequate tools for them to succeed! By doing so, I myself need to continue learning.

Donna Limon
First Grade Teacher

Donna 's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Hi Heather:

I concur with you on the idea that teachers are lifelong learners. If we weren't then we would not be the best role models of what we expect. Teachers not only teach a certain grade or subject, they teacher life to impact students. The perfect example is by promoting education through oneself. My passion for teaching comes from the foundation that students are willing to learn, as a teacher I have to provide the appropriate and adequate tools for them to succeed! By doing so, I myself need to continue learning.

Donna Limon
First Grade Teacher

James Jackson's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I believe that have a passion for lifelong learning is has to be a vital part of a teacher's make-up. The educational landscape is forever changing and it takes a lifelong learner to want to take the information learned and pass it on to the students of the today. For example, I am currently a Grad Student at Walden University and one of our assignments was to blog. This is the first blog I have ever done and to me this is a change in the educational landscape that my students will need to learn how to do. I will be able to take this experience and pass it on.

James Jackson
Health & Physical Education Teacher (Pre-K - 6)
Upper Marlboro, MD

Melissa's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I agree with what was said about challenging yourself. Although, I am finding it difficult to be confident as a new prospective teacher. I have not taught yet and I have been out of school raising my family for 9 years. I have decided to go back to school to get my Master's and look for a teaching job. I am terrified. I currently sub and am reminded of the content that I will have to know to teach my own class. I feel like I have lost a lot of time and knowledge while I was away from the field of teaching. I just don't know how I will do getting back in a classroom again. Can someone give me a bit of reality or positive encouragement? Do all novice teachers feel this way? Or am I the only one? Should I just "jump in?" Help Please!!!! Thank you in advance!!!

Jen's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

As I am continuing my own education, my class has been discussing the idea of life long learners. Our profession is one of the few where we are required to continue our education throughout our career. It is extremely important to learn from your own mistakes and to modify things as you go. As I read this blog I thought of my own students. Some of them have do not have a desire to learn and are not motivated. I need to model for them how much fun and important learning actually is. Maybe if I share that I learn something on a daily basis, this will make learning more meaningful to them. As the old saying goes, "I need to practice what I preach"!

Michael Herron's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

We are all lifelong learners regardless of our professions. I believe that this is simply the result of the human condition. Whether you support evolution, or a biblical based creation, the educational progression of human life is undeniable. As teachers we are able to tap into the stream of consciousness that embraces lifelong learning; watching others grow into their potential could perhaps be the greatest reward of teaching.
I love the Heather's comment: "Teaching is one of those rare professions that keeps your brain young," because it is so true for those of us in the profession. And, I would like to add that it also keeps our souls young. Or rather, has the potential to. I live and learn vicariously through my students. While we are reading Shakespeare, and I watch them grasp the meaning of a Sonnet, it is as if I am able to experience it again for the first time. They have youthful energy and anticipation of the future. Our students have the vast expanse of future in front of them and we (I) are meant to guide and assist them. What is better than being Yoda to a young Luke? I contend that there are few endeavors in life that can fulfill one's soul the way teaching and learning does.

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