Sunday, February 13, 2011

Heavy Lifting

This past week was very different for me as a teacher.  First and foremost, I was not in the classroom very much.  Secondly, when I was in the classroom I sat back and watched as my student intern took the helm and taught everything.  Third, I spent the greater part of my week at a conference on Lesson Studies where I spent alot time thinking about teaching and learning.  I thought about it so much that my brain actually hurt.

Talk about reflection.  My entire week was spent reflecting on what effective teaching looks like.  What meaningful learning looks like.  What motivates both to successfully happen.  And that its all about the heavy lifiting.

Definitions of heavy lifting I found on Google range from "difficult work" to "actively working toward making or doing something."  I think heavy lifting in teaching is a combination of both.

We know as educators that teaching in America right now is difficult work.  We deal with time constraints, funding contraints, constraints from constant new governmental mandates and initiatives, and constraints felt from the lack of parental support.  But despite these we teach.   We persevere.  And we do it for the kids. 

As a relatively new teacher (this is my 8th year) I didn't know what it was like to teach without these challenges.  This is the only teaching reality that I know.  I signed up for it knowing that it was going to be like this.  And I never regret doing so.  I want to make a difference in my students' lives.  I want to make the most of the challenges.. 

This brings me to the second definition of heavy lifting.  Active work that is intentional, meaningful and perpetual.  As educators we learn to teach and teach to learn.  This is our science.  Our schools are our laboratories.  We should feel empowered to know that we are foremost scientists in the study of teaching and learning.

But do we do the heavy lifting ALL of the time?  I don't think so.  I heavy lift for my colleagues every time I offer a strategy, help them take care of a challenging student, assist them in preparing cumbersome paperwork, sit in on a parent conference, or lend a listening ear.  And I let them heavy lift for me.  I couldn't work any other way.

When do our students do the heavy lifting?  This is the magical part.  Knowing how best our students learn, being aware of their needs, and teaching them with the best strategies we can find.  Teaching them to problem solve, and to know that the process of solving a problem is even more important than the actual solution.  Encouraging them to take risks and scaffold their learning so that they feel empowered (just like we do) to guide their own learning whenever possible.  And to help others to learn too.

Heavy lifting is pretty heavy stuff.  And worth every single daily workout.


Dan Gurney said...

Reflecting on teaching is really essential. Our lives would be easier if it were built into our schedules as a matter of course.

Of course, reflecting can be hard work, as you describe in this post. In the end, though, if we wish to work in the art of teaching, we must engage both our heads and our hearts in the work we do.

Mrs. Pearce said...

Thanks Dan for commenting on the post. I had the opportunity to participate in a Lesson Study last semester. It was a wonderful springboard for intentional reflection. The conference I attended last week was designed to prepare me to facilitate teams. Thanks for reminding me to not leave "the heart" out of the work we do!