Monday, March 24, 2008

An Inspiring Reality Check

I came to Inspired Teaching in 2004 with a pretty high opinion of myself as a teacher. I’d worked with students grades 4 through college and always had a good rapport with my kids and good reviews from my administrators. At times I had questioned the academic impact of my teaching on the lives of my pupils, but casual comparison with my fellow educators always made it clear I wasn’t doing any worse than them – and in most instances I was better.

That was enough for me, until I took the Inspired Teaching Institute.

I’d been working with Inspired Teaching for a full year before I took their flagship course. I’d participated in enough workshops to know it would be interesting and probably entertaining, but I didn’t really expect to learn anything new. Boy was I in for a surprise.

Over the course of 5 weeks the facilitators led me through a rigorous process of self examination and teacher transformation. This is an outline of the process Inspired Teaching uses to accomplish this:

Step 1. Analyze and deepen my understanding of the ways I learn.

Step 2. Articulate and defend my philosophy of teaching and learning, including what I believe about children. Find room in my philosophy for an appreciation of children's natural curiosity and desire to learn.

Step 3. Make the connection to classroom practice - develop new strategies to make sure my philosophy of teaching and learning matches what I do in the classroom.

Step 4. Build the skills of effective teachers, including listening, asking thoughtful questions, observing, and communicating effectively.

Step 5. Practice! Create and practice new strategies that will make my classroom an active place of learning fueled by students' ideas. Arm myself with research that shows children learn best when they engage in work that is important and challenging.

And this is what happened to me:
  • I realized that I had a lot to learn as a teacher and someday when I go back to the classroom I’ll be doing things completely differently.
  • I learned that “better” than my fellow educators was still not good enough for my students.
  • I learned that even if I thought I had high expectations for my students, the discipline systems I was using to control them conflicted with my belief that they had the capacity to govern themselves.
  • I learned that teaching students the rules of grammar means little if I haven’t also empowered them to use those rules to strengthen their own writing.
  • I learned so much more. I was truly humbled by the experience.

Before I took the Inspired Teaching Institute I believed I was a good teacher, and I had references in the world outside that experience to back up this belief. But after taking the course I discovered my desire to be an exceptional teacher and I became fully aware of the fact that this is something I can’t accomplish in a single course or a program. It’s something I’ll have to continually work towards my whole life.

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