Always Learning!

Note to self: This is, indeed, a slice of life, but as I was writing it I found myself surprised by its tone.  Interesting.

Learning and encouragement, I think, oftentimes go hand in hand.  Learning isn’t always easy, and it’s nice to have an encouraging voice in your ear as you work toward understanding something new.

Recently, I’ve had a few experiences that have sort of refined my understanding of how those two activities–learning and encouragement–go together.

I have, for most of my adult life, been an avid user of technology.  In my early professional life, computers and automation were just starting to make inroads into the military maintenance units of which I was a member, and I sort of grew up with them.  As new technologies emerged (Windows 3.1 was pretty awesome), I had the opportunity to learn as I used them to do a few different jobs.  The nineties turned into the two thousands, and the world of early blogging and wikis turned into social media and other more-user-friendly and intuitive technology tools. 

Nowadays, I have the opportunity to help other teachers take advantage of some of the new tools we have available to us.  Sometimes it’s easy, and sometimes it’s not.  Given the current events, sometimes the process is leisurely, and sometimes it’s sink or swim, where sinking isn’t an option.

Over the last few days, I’ve been working with a teacher I’ve known for several years, helping her learn to shoot and edit screencast videos.  The process isn’t too difficult, but her expectations for herself are high and she’s quickly taken things to a pretty decent production level. 

When she first started, I found myself trying to be encouraging as she worked with this new-to-her set of tools.  (“Really, your voice sounds fine!”) As time passed and her level of proficiency grew, I could sense that my need to encourage her was diminishing.  She was finding success with her work, and that success became a source of encouragement beyond anything I could say.  At a certain point, verbal encouragement wouldn’t just be unnecessary–I think it would start to sound patronizing.  She is doing well, and she knows it.

In an interesting sequence of events just today, I left the teaching situation of my friend’s classroom, got in my car, and headed to our district’s tech services department where I spent an hour or so learning some of the basics of mobile device management (MDM) systems.  I was sort of familiar with the process, but there was quite a bit of new material and I had to work to make sure I had the gist of what was happening.  The material wasn’t totally new to me, but it was challenging, and as I was learning alongside another colleague our “teacher” assumed we were rolling along with her, and the time went well.

On my drive home, I thought about the “tech” events of the last few days.  Over the days I spent teaching, my need to encourage diminished and my learner’s success became its own motivator.  During my own learning experience, verbal encouragement was neither expected nor given.  Had it been, it would have seemed awkward at best.  If it crossed anyone’s mind, it was mine alone as I celebrated my own learning while figuring out how to apply my newly acquired abilities.  

As I’ve read over this slice, I realize that I haven’t necessarily learned anything new, but it was cool to have recognized what I have about the last few days.  I’m not sure how this will translate to teaching elementary-age children, but I’m happy to have re-experienced this insight!

4 thoughts on “Always Learning!”

  1. Hi Tim,
    With this first part, “Learning and encouragement, I think, oftentimes go hand in hand. Learning isn’t always easy, and it’s nice to have an encouraging voice in your ear as you work toward understanding something new.” I believe you’ve explained pretty well how it translates to teaching elementary-aged students. It sounds to be like a gradual release model and the successful accomplishment of creating an independent learner. It’s what I hope to create each year with my students. I so enjoyed how you described the experience here.


  2. First of all, I loved the reflective tone of this post — how I could feel the thoughts forming and crystallizing as you pondered. It was as if I were learning right along with you. I was also struck by how the ultimate goal really is to walk away. Right now I’m waiting to hear if one of my teach-at-home students with whom I’ve been working for more than three years thinks she’s ready to “go it alone.” She has come so far in dealing with and conquering her anxiety, and I am so proud of her. She always had the wings; she just didn’t trust she could fly.


  3. What I liked most about this post was your self-awareness as a lifelong learner, the openness to the new even as you acknowledge that the learning isn’t always easy. As for the encouragement piece, you nailed that, too, just as Marina commented above–the gradual release model, which is what we want every student to achieve. I have to admit, though, that the occasional note of encouragement, even after one has achieved success, is not always out of place. I didn’t realize how much I appreciated it until I had a colleague who would say “I’m proud of you” when I accomplished something new…and it felt good to hear it!


  4. Hi Tim, I think small revelations can prove big outcomes when we take time to become aware. This whole idea of moving from instructor to encourager is just the thing I’ve been dealing with in my own kids and in my classes. Being aware enough to identify that fine line is challenging. When is it time to move off and let them run? That idea is indeed at the heart of teaching well. Thank you for bringing this into the light.
    Best wishes for your new school year


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