Thursday, November 18, 2010

It's About the Learning

I'm a learner. I admit it. My name is Lee Ann Spillane and I spend hours reading, writing, surfing and learning about teaching. I am powerless in the face of those that teach and guide me.  Learning has not made my life unmanageable, but sometimes, I admit,  to not actually cooking dinner, so that I can listen in to #engchat. 

Learning and teaching is a vocation, a calling. I know that a higher power invested me in the literate lives of today's teens, so I lurk and learn. 

Book retailers love me. Amazon knows my name and thoughtfully suggests books I will like.  For my 40th birthday, aside from a llama pair or a pony,  I wanted built-in bookshelves.  Shelves were built with the promise of more to come. Books stand like sentinels in my rooms at home and at school. 

Far from perfect, I am still learning. Everyday, every moment is an opportunity. I love the turn of a higher level question. I bask in cognitive tasks.

Oh, I can't keep up the act, I'm a learning addict. Thus was I delighted with Sara Kajder's tweet this morning. A personal challenge? She takes it as a personal challenge to teach me something new. Oh  man! Sharpen the colored pencils, charge the laptop, I am in for a great day at NCTE today! Sara hasd  a galaxy of new ideas she could share with me.  I am thrilled by the prospect. 

My principal and I recently had a conversation about the gradual release of responsibility model of instruction. I was videotaped as an example of said instruction. The tape is being shown to middle and high school principals  in the district. My leader wondered why more high school teachers aren't teaching that way.  I wondered if I looked like an elephant on tape. She said, "You make it look easy, so why aren't more people doing it?" Embedded in her question is the idea that high school teachers are still lecturing, still transmitting content from the stage at the front of the room. It is not easy to step aside. 

"Do you know how many years I spent collecting questions in my journal?" I told. "How many years I wrote down and gathered what I call connecting language that would transition an audience from one idea to another smoothly?" Lots of journals, lots of purposeful listening, lots of notes and I am still learning, hardly perfect in my practice of putting the thinking and doing on kids.

I don't feel like an expert most days, but I do feel like a pioneer. A learner willing to take risks, to devote time and myself to changing my own classroom practice. In my mind, that process never ends--learning is continual. 

Are you a teacher learner? 

Talk at school and online has turned to NCTE in recent weeks. I'm exuberant. Is everyone in my teaching universe? Hardly. Take this simulated exchange:

"NCTE is next week! Are you going?"
"No, I've been before."

NCTE is an ever changing smorgasbord of ideas and innovation. At NCTE you can rub shoulders or have actual conversation with education's Rock Stars. And one of them is Sara Kajder. Professor at Virginia Tech, winner of the first National Technology fellowship in English language arts, author of the Tech Savvy English Teacher and Bringing the Outside In, national consultant, sitting in her session today--what a gift that will be! 

Really. How could you have "been there done that"?  Is it because teachers have other learning outlets? Other conferences they are holding out for? Perhaps they learn online. They read. They tweet. They blog? I wonder.

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