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
but I’ll bet that was hell
for some kids.
The teacher dictated information
and I wrote it down,
to capture this precious
before it got away.
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.
Learning has changed.
21st century learning means connecting
with tribes of people
passionate about our interests.
The members of my tribes are fellow
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
We are all co-editors of this new curriculum.
Learning has changed
but has teaching?
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
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
The HOW for educators in the 21st century
must include a greater reach in two directions:
towards relevant and meaningful instructional technologies
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