While reading one of my favorite teacher blogs, What Ed Said, I came across these 10 questions to ask yourself as an educator. I thought it would be the perfect way to get back into my teacher brain after a summer off. Answering these questions also made me think of Rosh Hashanah which just so happens to begin today. This Jewish holiday celebrates the New Year. Many people celebrate by casting away burdens from the past year and setting resolutions for the new year.
1. What do I believe about learning?
I believe that learning is fun. Learning must include interactivity. I know for myself personally I learn by doing. Authentic experiences must be part of the learning process. Students who can interact with a problem will be more successful at finding the solution.
I also learn by failing. Failure should always be an option. It’s ok if something doesn’t go the way you expected or planned. That only will make the learning experience stronger by presenting a second chance and the ability to creatively solve the problem.
Learning should never stop. Just because you graduated from high school, college, or graduate studies, it doesn’t mean that you stop learning. I learn things every day. I learn from everyone and everything around me. I am constantly seeking inspiration.
2. Does my practice reflect my beliefs?
I believe that I have created a space in my art room and my curriculum that allows for experiential learning as well as failure. My grading policy weighs heavily on the process that a student goes through to make a piece. The sketches, planning, dialog, failures, and successes all matter more to me than what the final piece looks like.
I believe that art making is an experience. No one can make art for you. In my room the student is the one who decides on a concept, picks up the brush, chooses the colors, and creates a mural. The students are at the center of my classroom. They teach each other and they most definitely teach me.
3. How do I shift my focus from what I teach to how they learn?
The emphasis has shifted over the past three years of my teaching to meta-cognition. I want my students to think about the way they learn, why they learn, how they learn. I use reflective practices that guide students to begin to think about the process of their learning and the growth that they achieve over time and with practice. I like to remind them that like a good paper there are many outlines, drafts, corrections, sources, and citations. One cannot simply become an artist but they must practice as an artist. I like to set this example by making my own work in the classroom.
4. Is the learner at the centre of everything?
I certainly hope so. When a student has a question I like to guide them to the answer rather than giving it to them directly. I think it is important to teach students to find their own answers.
- How does one find an answer?
- What process does one go through to get to their answers?
- What does one do if there are multiple answers?
Research is a skill that can be taught and applied to any subject. Presenting these skills in a new and perhaps more visual way can enlighten a student who is more heavily reliant on their right brain.
5. Do my students own their learning?
I like to not just answer questions but help my students answer their own queries.
6. How can I ‘make friends with the curriculum’?
I am one of the lucky ones. I get to make my curriculum. I rework the curriculum every year by reflecting on projects that worked and those that did not. I think that I can be even more friendly with my curriculum by posting it in the classroom. I can also talk with students about how flexible the curriculum can be. It is important for students to see us falter and struggle at times in order for us to model creative problem solving. There are times when a project just does not work. There are also times when an opportunity arises and we must jump at the chance to integrate a new and different project.
7. How do I encourage creativity?
It’s important for my students to feel comfortable enough to make mistakes. Mistakes can only lead to learning and creativity. Trust > the ability to make mistakes + support > problem solving > creativity
8. How can I ensure the learning space promotes learning?
I would hope that everything about my art room encourages learning. My room has low lighting, inspiring visuals and quotes, and a variety of resources. The space is one that students want to stay in even after classes have ended. I want to create a space where students never feel stupid asking questions. I want them to ask me. I want them to ask each other. I want them to do their own research. It’s important for them to know what their resources are and how to access them.
9. How can I ensure I am a learner first?
I want my students to know that I am always learning. I can model this by continuing to work on art in the classroom. I can learn from my students. I can admit that I do not have the answers to everything. Our new MS division head said it best, “be a learner, not a knower.” I think that one can continue to be a learner by NOT being a knower.
10. How can I contribute to a culture of learning?
I interpret this question as contributing to a culture of learning among not only my students but also my peers. I think that I can contribute by modeling the ways in which I am a learner. I can send relevant articles to my students and my peers. I can take classes, attend PD, and offer workshops and sessions to my peers. I can