Monday, July 7, 2008

Inspired Teaching Institute Day 1: Let the questioning begin

One of our friendly facilitators led a 20-person warm-up.

“Now pull your shoulders up beside your ears, inhaling, pull up to the top of your head and up to the ceiling.”

We stretched, head to toes, and swung our arms with increasing imaginary weight until we were spinning in our spots around the circle.

As the last participants arrived for the 2008 Inspired Teaching Institute, I smiled and wondered what they were thinking. I continued to speculate during the next exercise that involved a magical scarf similar to talking sticks I’ve seen used to facilitate group discussions. The scarf, however, has the power to make people observe and mirror the actions and energy of the person wearing it. So instead of an individual making faces and toggling their hips and shoulders to a funky ‘70s tune, a full room of adults did it.

That’s what made me sure of my mind-reading abilities. I could almost hear their shared thought: “What does this have to do with teaching?”

Fortunately, two other facilitators, Kate and Aleta, spoke the issue aloud during staff introductions. What do stretching and mirroring exercises have to do with teaching a traditional, pre-K through 12 class?

They asked that we sit with the question and trust that all will be revealed during the two-week intensive course. But by the afternoon, I had my own answer: these activities have everything to do with teaching.

Pointed inquiry is an essential practice of an Inspired Teacher. The right questions help students find their own way to complex understandings and more questions—a hallmark of engagement. During this first day of the Institute, teachers’ questions wandered from “what in the world are we doing?” to “how can I bring these first elements of the program—play, observation, inquiry, 100% engagement, community—into my classroom?”

Furthermore, how can a new way of teaching transform the impact that teachers have on their students?

None of us has all the answers. Instead these Inspired-Teachers-in-the-making—whose experience ranges from one to 30 years in education—are experimenting, discovering what kinds of learners they are, and beginning to get acquainted with one another.

Can’t wait to see what’s in store for tomorrow. Perhaps the homework will tell me because I’m eager to find out.

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