21st Century Yoga for Teachers (Coetail 1.5)

i
When I became a teacher
my practice was grounded
in my experience as a student.

(I know that’s not just me.)

The teacher was the centre of the classroom-universe.
When she said “sit”, we sat.
We sat a lot…
stayed very still.
I didn’t mind sitting
still
but I’ll bet that was hell
for some kids.

The teacher dictated information
and I wrote it down,
moving quickly
to capture this precious
knowledge
before it got away.

ii
Twenty years later,
I’m not so worried
about remembering or teaching facts.
The population of Morocco,
how long to cook a turkey
and the causes of World War II,
are all one internet search away.
Click.

Learning has changed.

21st century learning means connecting
with tribes of people
passionate about our interests.
The members of my tribes are fellow
travelers
writers
photographers
foodies
design-fans
and educators.
I belong, simultaneously,
to multiple classrooms
that take multiple forms
with members all over the world.
These connections are fluid and portable,
I take them with me
whenever I travel or move.
(And that is a genuine comfort
because finding your tribe
in another culture
is not always easy.)

The changing landscape of our learning
is equally profound for kids
with an internet connection.
Their textbook is now the whole world
and there are a million ways
to read it
revise
interact
and participate.
We are all co-editors of this new curriculum.

Learning has changed
but has teaching?

iii
In Lois Lowery’s YA novel, The Giver,
two characters who hold the memories
of, and for, their society
make the dangerous decision to give them back.
Everyone, then, has access to the memories.
They carry both the weight of the past
and also the joy.

So that’s where we are
in this information age.
The internet has the power
to be the great democratizer.
As teachers, we serve as Givers
who have shared the memories of our society.
We still need to teach kids
what to do with those memories:
access, provide context, interpret and analyse, extrapolate, categorize and file, learn from the memories so we don’t make the same mistakes again
and again
and again.

iv
The last piece,
the one that actually keeps me awake at night,
is the HOW of it all.
How do we practice as teacher-guides and Givers
in the 21st century?

It has never been,
(and you can quote me on this)
harder to be a teenager.
Kids are stressed out of their minds,
(ask an IB Diploma student how much sleep they get per night… go ahead, I dare you)
many of them are uncomfortable in their own bodies and skin,
and they are critical of the appearance and actions of their peers.
They compare their lives to the lives of others
as described on Facebook.

From where I stand, the internet is not making our kids
more respectful, better organized or more resilient.
That’s still the job of their parents
and teachers.

The HOW for educators in the 21st century
must include a greater reach in two directions:
towards relevant and meaningful instructional technologies
and methods
as well as a summoning of greater compassion
for our students and for each other.
This is 21st century yoga for teachers.
To really see each kid
as they learn, reach, thrive and fail sometimes.
To say, “It’s okay to fail. That’s how we learn.” (And to mean it.)
To help them write an essay, a tweet and a letter of heartfelt apology.
(And to help them develop the wisdom to know when each is required.)
To cheer for them even when it’s incredibly difficult to do so.

It’s true that I have more questions than answers
(and that is often the case)
but I know that good teachers,
those willing to stretch and learn and grow,
have never been more important
than we are
right now.

5 comments

  1. This is really great. It’s reassuring to know that the HOW is as overwhelming (in the positive sense as well as the negative) to teachers as well as to students.

  2. @Anonymous
    Thanks for your comment. I think that many things are overwhelming for teachers because educating students is a huge responsibility. (I actually worry about teachers who don’t worry about this stuff!)

  3. I watch my niece and nephew on facebook. I watch them grow and learn about love and relationships. have been concerned to see my nephew receive random messages from unknown people. I have been proud of how the family responded. I had my adult ‘teenager at heart’ broken when my niece posted about first loves ending but never leaving your heart.

    Why is this important as a teacher? It is important because children/students need us more than ever. Is this teacher ego, no. I read this
    http://mindshift.kqed.org/2011/09/20-things-students-want-the-nation-to-know-about-education/
    and was moved by how many of the 20 things related to personal and social issues, 8 in fact, without pushing it. Be a 21st century educator, connect virtually and literally with students.

  4. @Zoe
    Thanks for the link – I LOVE it! That is exactly how I think of my work – as a life coach for teenagers. Perhaps I can get admin to change my title!
    Also, I was thinking that it’s not only kids who struggle with what to write on Facebook and what to leave off.

  5. The yoga metaphor really worked for me. In my experience, there are 2 sides to taking yoga. On the one hand it’s peaceful, relaxing, and a chance to focus on what’s important. On the other hand, however, it’s a new environment with new skills and pressures to perform that at times pulled me away from my true intentions of relaxation that brought me to the class. In some ways technology in education functions in a similar duality that you illustrate so wonderfully in this poetic piece. It’s no wonder that yoga instructors seem to span the divide between the physical and spiritual. Perhaps there is something else in this metaphor for teachers to take into account as we work with our students. Thank you for this thought-provoking post. It really has me thinking.

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