October 23, 2012

Teaching as the Practice of Wisdom

Deirdre Bailey

What follows is not a typical teacher learning plan. All my previous attempts have taken the form of New Year’s Resolution type finite lists with a very fixed outline and implied expectation of “pass or fail”. I reluctantly admit I don’t have a great track record with these types of goals. I have a history of making it through about one month of successfully checking my expectations off a list before I inevitably fall off the band wagon and resign myself to a renewed attempt the following year. This year our administration suggested that learning plans could take on personalized formats. For me, this prompted a fairly serious consideration of what has been ineffective for me in previous years and how I might re-direct my focus this time around.

I think the reason that a permanent check list has never worked is that I am not the same person from month to month. If inquiry based learning has taught me anything, it is that ideas, thoughts, environments, and perspectives are impermanent. As writing is one tool that has allowed me to effectively wonder aloud, I decided a while ago that my 2012-2013 teacher learning plan should take the form of a blog...


I want to be able to competently articulate my evolving understanding of effective educational pedagogy and hold myself accountable for actually practicing what I believe in the classroom. While re-figuring my thinking is likely to remain a permanent state, it is important to me that I am able to express my educational philosophy in order to continue to advocate for more thoughtful and relevant learning in the school environment.

My own education has been guided by a learned push to consume. Twitter, blog rolls and other social media exacerbate this tendency. I feel I have overlooked the value of concentration, focus and memory, so vital to real personal development. I am worried that I am losing the ability to distinguish between what I know based on experience and what I think I know based on distractions, media, and a commercial agenda.

My goal is to cultivate comprehension through composure and mindful attention to everyday experiences and ideas both in and outside of the classroom environment. I have learned that at the heart of inquiry are simple considerations of experiential origin and historical wisdom. Discourse and disagreement are openings through which complexities, ambiguities and uncertainties can broaden understanding.

As I refine my ability to articulate what I am coming to understand, the aim is to learn to be suggestive and open with my language and approach, to open a space for consideration with a simple comment or question. I would like to be able to engage in dialogue that fosters respectful and thoughtful conversation around the assumptions and intentions at the heart of educational discourse. The more I understand about teaching and learning, the more I understand that knowing everything is neither a possibility nor an objective. What I can do is learn to effecitvely describe the work that is undertaken in our classroom and hope that the better that work gets, the more it will shine a light.

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