Learning is Personal

Recently I encountered a learning event that didn't match my style at all.  In fact, I left the event feeling really uncomfortable.  The event lasted for quite a long time, and the takeaway was minimal.  That's frustrating when you're a teacher with an endless lists of tasks and research to complete.

Just because the event was a bad fit for me, doesn't mean it was a bad fit for everyone--perhaps others left with revelations, but their faces didn't demonstrate that emotion. In fact, there seemed to be some tension as we all departed.

So what didn't work?

While the information was helpful and will serve as a resource, it didn't fit my current questions.  That's why I like our PLCs and grade level meetings where we talk a lot about what's current and how to best serve the students we teach.  Those meetings are problem solving, creative sessions that provide information and plans that directly impact our shared classroom work.  I also learn a lot from expert speakers and conferences tailored to my questions and needs.  Again, events like that provide important, lasting takeaways.

The format of this learning event didn't work for me either.  The topic was imposed and the group of learners didn't know each other well. While optimal teaching was a general purpose, we didn't have the kind of relationship or shared pursuit that fosters meaningful debate and discussion. I would have learned more if I had the chance to listen to the other participants share one aspect of the topic that they felt they did well or couldn't teach without. That would have provided me with a broader lens of the material, specific ideas and a chance to know the other educators.

I recognize that the purpose of the event was cross-pollination of ideas and perspectives about a chosen topic (a topic I value), and that it's nearly impossible to plan an event for a large group of diverse learners.  That's why I continue to be a fan of differentiated professional development that meets the needs, questions, style and interests of educators.

I must also remember what this event felt like to me as I'm sure my students feel the same way when I impose a topic and structure that doesn't fit their style, interest or questions.  Hence, I'll continue to make every effort to make learning engaging, and when a child acts up, I'll work with that child to identify and remedy what caused the frustration.  As humans, we like to learn, and we like to do a good job.  When learning events affirm that by recognizing our learning style, needs and questions, our learning is enhanced and the experience gratifying.  As for this learning endeavor, sometimes an event that's not just right can offer an important perspective.
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