User Generated Education

Education as it should be – passion-based.

Posts Tagged ‘teacher education

Developing a Flexible & Risk-Taking Mindset

with 4 comments

A flexible and risk-taking mindset rather than a fixed one will benefit all stakeholders in an educator’s realm: the educator’s learners, colleagues, her or his learners’ families, the community, the field of education-at-large, and of course, the educator him-or herself.

Mindset is defined as “a set of assumptions, methods, or notations held by one or more people or groups of people that is so established that it creates a powerful incentive within these people or groups to continue to adopt or accept prior behaviors, choices, or tools.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mindset)

Given today’s climate in education systems, one based on accountability, scripted curriculum, and teaching to the teach, far too many teachers develop a fixed mindset. Many educators feel forced into a paradigm of teaching where they feel subjected to teaching practices outside of their control. Then when they are asked to engage in a process of continued growth and development, many profess: “I don’t have enough time.”, “I don’t have enough resources.”, “I need more training.”, “I need to teach using the textbook.” ,”I need to teach to the test.”, “I might lose control of the class.”, “I have always successful taught this way.”

Mindsets-1

What happens way too often is that given these restraints, educators develop feelings of powerless and of learned helplessness. This leads to developing beliefs that they have no freedom to take risks nor to try out new things in their classrooms. Sadly, though, this becomes an over-generalization.

It is a myth that we operate under a set of oppressive bureaucratic constraints. In reality, teachers have a great deal of autonomy in the work they chose to do in their classrooms. In most cases it is our culture that provides the constraints. For individual teachers, trying out new practices and pedagogy is risky business and both our culture, and our reliance on hierarchy, provide the ideal barriers for change not to occur. As Pogo pointed out long ago, “we have met the enemy and it is us.” http://www.cea-ace.ca/blog/brian-harrison/2013/09/5/stop-asking-permission-change

Instead of this type of fixed and paralyzing mindset, educators should focus on having a flexible and risk-taking mindset. I know that these qualities can be part of a growth mindset which is usually discussed in terms of a growth vs. a fixed mindset.  I wanted, though, something specific to educators that signifies their willingness to keep evolving and building their professional skills.

What follows are some strategies educators can use to develop, further develop, and maintain a flexible and risk-taking mindset:

  • Develop an awareness when you enter the status quo and mediocrity complacency. Recognize it. Revisit it often. Talk about it. Shake yourself out of it in any way possible!  Interestingly, Mr. C. discussed this in a very recent blog post.

I developed an “If it ain’t broke why fix it” attitude. By being comfortable and satisfied with the status quo had I stopped learning, innovating, moving forward…being successful? (Does the Status Quo Make you Comfortable?)

  • Engage in continuous reflective practice. As I discussed in Where is reflection in the learning process?, educators need to be engaged in ongoing reflective practice to stay fresh and invigorated, and to insure that your actions in the learning environment are done with intentionality.

The critically reflective habit confers a deeper benefit than that of procedural utility. It grounds not only our actions, but also our sense of who we are as teachers in an examined reality. We know why we believe what we believe. A critically reflective teacher is much better placed to communicate to colleagues and students (as well as to herself) the rationale behind her practice. She works from a position of informed commitment. She knows why she does and thinks, what she does and thinks.  Stephen Brookfield

  • Establish both face-to-face and online personal/professional learning networks with other educators and other professionals, ones who try to live their professional lives with a flexible and risk-taking mindset.
  • Try and learn new things in the classroom modeling taking risks and being a lead learner. As A.J. Juliani notes in 10 Risks Every Teacher Should Take With Their Class:

As I work with students and teachers there is one common thread that the “stand-out” classrooms share: They take risks. Not only do these students and teachers take learning risks, but they also take them together. They are partners in the learning process, where the teacher is the “lead learner”.  A.J. Juliani

  • Attend conferences, workshops, and other professional development opportunities outside of your comfort area . . . way outside of your comfort zone.

The bottom line becomes focusing on what can work rather than what is not working.  This is not to devalue the obstacles that teachers face. It becomes about noting where change is possible and making some small changes in teaching.  Small changes often result in larger, more systemic change.

mindsets2

. . . and sometimes having a flexible and risk-taking mindsets makes an educator an outlier educator in his or her school environment and it takes courage to be an outlier educator.

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

June 7, 2016 at 11:04 pm

An Educator’s Gift to Their Learners: Seeing Each One of Them

with one comment

SeeingStudents

One of the greatest gifts an educator can give to their learners is to see each one; really seeing each and every one of them. . . . seeing each student’s uniqueness and interacting with each one based on that uniqueness. Some strategies to do this include:

Listen More Than Talk

If educators talk to their learners more than listen to them, then this is a problem.  Traditional education models have focused on the teacher being the content area expert – disseminator of information. But we are living in an age where traditional education should no longer be the norm; where the educator should be doing a lot more listening to their learners.

In an interview of Lady Gaga by Soledad O’ Brien at the Born This Way Emotion Revolution Summit where Gaga stated, “It’s time to stop telling learners what to do and start listening for we can do for them.” One of those accepted practices, sadly, in most educational settings is that the teacher is the authority to be respected and listened to without question. Listening to students is not a practice that is often taught in teacher education programs. (Student Voice Comes With Teachers as Listeners)

One of the first skills counselors are taught is how to listen. This should be the same for teachers. All pre-service teachers should be taught effective listening skills. Strategies for developing listening skills as an educator can be found in Student Voice Comes With Teachers as Listeners.

Set Up the Conditions to Give Learners Voice

A corollary to listening to learners is giving them voice.

In essence, giving students voice in their own learning is allowing them to express their views, opinions, and thoughts on how they feel they should be taught. If we truly believe in making our classrooms student-centered, led and directed by students, then we need to give them that voice. (Giving Students a Voice Models High-Quality Learning Processes)

Students want to achieve in school. They want to find purpose being in school. They want to discover their talents. Without students having a voice, we cannot collectively ensure that this will all happen for every student. (How Can Students Have More Say in School Decisions?)

This is further discussed in my post, Today’s Education Should Be About Giving Learners Voice and Choice. Some ways educators can give students voice is by:

  • Giving learners an opportunity to use their unique voices to show what they know-what they learned (see UDL’s multiple means of action and expression).
  • Giving learners options to use their voice in a way that works best for them. Some may want to write, some may want to use art, photos, videos, and others may want to talk.
  • Helping learners find authentic audiences with whom they can share their voice.
  • Giving learners a say in how their school and classroom operate – being part of a democratic process.

Act Upon What Learners Say

The ultimate way to show learners that you’ve heard them is to act upon what they’ve said. For example, some learners might mention an interest in Minecraft. The educator can offer those learners an opportunity to use Minecraft to demonstrate their learning in one of the content areas. It is pretty magical watching a learner’s reaction when an educator implements a practice based on a learner’s comment. In such cases, learners often seem say with their nonverbal behaviors, “Wow, you really heard what I said!”

Give Learners Choice

Giving learners choice gives them an opportunity to self-differentiate and to be responsible for their own learning while giving them the message that the educator respects who they are as unique individuals. Giving learners choice also respects their need for freedom as discussed by John Dewey:

The essence of the demand for freedom is the need of conditions which will enable an individual to make his own special contribution to a group interest, and to partake of its activities in such ways that social guidance shall be a matter of his own mental attitude, and not a mere authoritative dictation of his acts.

– John Dewey
Democracy and Education

This is further discussed in my post, Today’s Education Should Be About Giving Learners Voice and Choice. Some ways educators can give students voice is by:

Personalize Learning

Personalized learning is yet another way to see each learner – it honors their individual needs, interests, penchants. Personalized learning, as described in http://www.personalizelearning.com, is all about the learner and starts with the learner. It is about the learner self-directing and driving their own learning. Personalized learning means learners…

  • know how they learn best.
  • self-direct and self-regulate their learning.
  • design their own learning path.
  • have a voice in and choice about their learning.
  • are co-designers of the curriculum and the learning environment.
  • have flexible learning anytime and anywhere.
  • are motivated and engaged in the learning process.

Personalizing learning gives learners the message that they are valued for who they are not who others want them to be.

Be Present

In order to be aware of and make the most of the interactions you have with your students, you have to be able to be to be “in the moment” with them in the classroom. In order for teachers to extend student’s learning, we must first “be present” with them. This means being aware enough of our own thoughts and emotions that we are able to adjust them and tune into the student’s immediate thoughts, needs, and emotions. This is no easy task, especially during busy classroom activities. In order to stay in the moment, teachers have to purposefully set aside thoughts about a) what just happened; b) what happened yesterday or this morning; c) what we have to do next; d) how we need to prepare for later; and e) we they feel about XYZ. Specific suggestions for staying present in the classroom can be found at Teacher Tips: Being “In the Moment” with Children.

Put the Learners at the Center

In these days of accountability and high stakes testing, too often the lessons, the curriculum, the standards, and the tests are put at the center of teaching rather than the learners.

The term student-centered learning refers to a wide variety of educational programs, learning experiences, instructional approaches, and academic-support strategies that are intended to address the distinct learning needs, interests, aspirations, or cultural backgrounds of individual students and groups of students.  The term student-centered learning most likely arose in response to educational decisions that did not fully consider what students needed to know or what methods would be most effective in facilitating learning for individual students or groups of students. (Student-Centered Learning)

Putting learners at the center of learning translates into in honoring and leveraging their strengths and interests, grasping onto those teachable moments based on learner inquiry, and having the learners develop and explore explore their own essential questions. Most of all, putting the students at the center of learning translates into assisting them in internalizing that their own unique selves are of utmost importance in the learning setting.

Acknowledge  “Blend in the Woodwork” and Disengaged Learners

The idiom “to blend into the woodwork” means “to behave in a way that does not attract any attention; to disappear or hide.” These are the learners who aren’t the best students nor are they the worse. They do what is told without making any noise or a big deal about it. They are the learners who when asked years later about them, the educator has trouble remembering them.

Seeing each and every learner means that the educator also looks for and acknowledges the achievements of “blend in the woodwork” and disengaged learners. This acknowledgement comes in the form that works best for these learners – a note or quiet comment showing that the educator sees them; that s/he recognizes that they are an important part of the learning environment.

Develop Strategies for Dealing With Annoying Learners

Educators are humans first and there are going to be learners who get on an educator’s nerves. An effective educator acknowledges that s/he might not like all students the same but works hard to treat them all fairly. To do so, though, educators need to first identify when a student is touching upon a nerve, and second, to develop strategies for dealing with that student.

By developing some personal intervention strategies, the educator is actually owning the problem with a self-acknowledgement that: “This is my problem not that student’s problem. I need to develop strategies to help me cope with his or her annoying behaviors.” Although, that student doesn’t know it, the educator, in this case, is showing the utmost respect as s/he attempts to develop effective and unique ways of building an authentic relationship with that student.

Overtly Show Learners That You Care

Many, too many in my opinion, teacher education programs instruct teachers to not get emotionally involved with their students. I believe the opposite. Effective and caring teachers do get emotionally involved with their students to the point that they actually love them. This is actually congruent with research that indicates that relationships are key to student achievement. The teacher-student relationship needs to remain at a professional level but teachers can use their own individual style and techniques to show that they care for each and every learner. It can be as simple as giving a handshake or high five with eye contact and a smile to each learner as she or he enters and leaves the classroom.

Perhaps you’ve heard the statement, “They won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” When students are asked about the qualities of good teachers, they confirm the truth of that statement—caring is always at or near the top of the list. Caring is evident when you recognize students as unique human beings with different learning needs and preferences, and when you “check in” with students through actions such as walking around the classroom, talking to everybody to see how they are doing, answering their questions, and expressing confidence in their ability to improve. (6 Ways to Let Students Know You Care)

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

January 2, 2016 at 11:48 pm

Empathy: A Top Skill of the Effective (and Loving) Educator

with 2 comments

Learning is a result of listening, which in turn leads to even better listening and attentiveness to the other person. In other words, to learn from the child, we must have empathy, and empathy grows as we learn.   Alice Miller

I have a fitness teacher.  She knows fitness, she knows how the body works.  She knows how to break down the exercises and how to teach them.  What she doesn’t know is each participant’s body.  She assumes she knows what is best for all of the students.  In other words, she lacks empathy for those in her class.  Some tolerate her, others do not go to her class because of her lack of empathy for her students.  But these are adults, children in public school education do not have such a choice. So this post is a call to action to highlight and become intentional in bringing teacher empathy into the classroom.

What is Empathy?

Daniel Pink in a Whole New Mind describes empathy:

Empathy isn’t sympathy- that is, feeling bad for someone else. It is feeling with someone else, sensing what it would be like to be that person  Empathy is the ability to imagine yourself in someone else’s position and to intuit what that person is feeling—to stand in their shoes, to see with their eyes, to feel with their hearts—it is a stunning act of imaginative derring-do, the ultimate virtual reality, climbing into another’s mind to experience the world from that person’s perspective.

A Rationale for Empathy

Given all the pressures placed upon teachers in today’s schools, I think, not necessarily due to all of fault of their own, some educators overlook the reverence they should take in relating to and interacting with their learners.  Jonathan Kozol in Ordinary Resurrections so beautifully stated:

Good teachers don’t approach a child with overzealousness or with destructive conscientiousness. They’re not drill-masters in the military or floor managers in a production system. They are specialists in opening small packages. They give the string a tug but do it carefully. They don’t yet know what’s in the box. They don’t know if it’s breakable.

. . . and . . .

Human beings are precious. Their values, thoughts and independence are very important to them. When dealing with another person one has to know that one is “walking on holy ground.” Defining empathy skills in practice – Carl Rogers and unconditional regard

Empathy for one’s students should be a top concern of educators and intentionally used as a primary instructional strategy.

Empathy and the Educator as a Design Thinker

Given the recent popularity of design thinker, some educators are looking at and proposing that educators using design thinking to design the learning experiences in this classrooms.  As Grant Wiggins notes in Beyond teacher egocentrism: design thinking:

The learning is the center of our world, not the teaching. And until we see that we are in the business of designing and causing learning instead of merely in the business of teaching, we will fail to cause optimal learning. Great care has been given to thinking through the goal of the learning and the conditions that have to be in place if optimal engagement and active learning, in a group of diverse students, is to occur.

Many describe empathy as the first step of effective design thinking.  “One of the core principles of design thinking is its focus on human values at every stage of the process. And empathy for the people for whom you’re designing is fundamental to this process” What is Design Thinking?

I would go as far as saying that empathy is necessary for designing all facets of teaching: setting up the classroom, selecting curriculum, choosing and implementing classroom management strategies, and teaching each individual learner as unique individuals.

Benefits of Empathy in Teaching and Learning

Finally in terms of benefits to teaching, learning and the classroom environment, empathy is a necessary precursor in order for the following to develop:

  • Foundation of the teacher-student relationship:  With educator empathy, the learner feels as though the educator has a genuine interest in and really understands him-her.
  • Individualized, differentiated, and personalized education:  There is absolutely no way an educator can tailor instruction to the meet their learners’ needs, interests, desires without empathy.
  • Meeting the social emotional needs of the students:  “Addressing the host of unmet social and emotional needs that students carry into the classroom demands that teachers be able to look below the surface and understand what’s driving a particular set of behaviors” (Unleashing Empathy: How Teachers Transform Classrooms With Emotional Learning).
  • Modeling empathy to increase empathy by the learners: When educators walk the talk of empathy, students can see empathy in action and develop those skills for themselves. ‘Ultimately, creating empathy comes down to leading children by example. “We have to model what we want them to do”‘  (Creating Empathy in the Classroom).

Educators inherently know that empathy is important to the operation of their classrooms and the success of their students. Educators must meet the needs of each of their students, no matter their background. At the core of this educational mission is the teacher’s ability to empathize with these students, moving beyond the teacher’s perspective to those of the children he or she encounters. Beyond this there is also the argument that empathy itself should be a goal of education; students should leave the classroom or school environment equipped with skills to build meaningful relationships with their peers  (Empathy in the Classroom)

educator empathy

Related Posts:

 

Finally in terms of benefits to teaching, learning and the classroom environment, empathy is a necessary precursor in order for the following to develop:

  • Foundation of the teacher-student relationship:  With educator empathy, the learner feels as though the educator has a genuine interest in and really understands him-her.
  • Individualized, differentiated, and personalized education:  There is absolutely no way an educator can tailor instruction to the meet their learners’ needs, interests, desires without empathy.
  • Meeting the social emotional needs of the students:  “Addressing the host of unmet social and emotional needs that students carry into the classroom demands that teachers be able to look below the surface and understand what’s driving a particular set of behaviors” (Unleashing Empathy: How Teachers Transform Classrooms With Emotional Learning).
  • Modeling empathy to increase empathy by the learners: When educators walk the talk of empathy, students can see empathy in action and develop those skills for themselves. ‘Ultimately, creating empathy comes down to leading children by example. “We have to model what we want them to do”‘  (Creating Empathy in the Classroom).

Educators inherently know that empathy is important to the operation of their classrooms and the success of their students. Educators must meet the needs of each of their students, no matter their background. At the core of this educational mission is the teacher’s ability to empathize with these students, moving beyond the teacher’s perspective to those of the children he or she encounters. Beyond this there is also the argument that empathy itself should be a goal of education; students should leave the classroom or school environment equipped with skills to build meaningful relationships with their peers  (Empathy in the Classroom)

 TeacherEmpathy

Related Posts:

Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/69392086@N06

 

Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

April 28, 2014 at 9:18 pm

%d bloggers like this: