This is a reflection on my class for Dr. June Schaefer, PYTD The Adult Learner. We met on a chilly Saturday in January, the 24th to be exact. I am continuing the practice of posting my reflections here after I email them to Dr. Schaefer. Writing is writing afterall…and it keeps me blogging! Too lazy to add any links tonight…maybe I’ll come back to it…or maybe not!
Returning to the cohort group this weekend was exciting. It was fun to see the new faces added to our group and reconnect with those from the previous semester. As a learner, I value the social connections, community we are building and the diverse experiences of each member of this cohort. The “conditions” in which we each learn are different, yet as veteran educators, we understand the importance of pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zones. Since the end of class on Saturday, I have had several email exchanges with classmates communicating about email lists, the wikispace and our overall learning goals. It is comforting to work with a group of people open to change and willing to try new things.
I enjoyed the model of learning that took place during our class time. Taking time to really get into the heart of the book while in a small group was meaningful. Much of our conversation circled around learners in education; teachers as learners, but we found ourselves trying to make connections outside of education. What would adult learning look like in the business world, industry, government? Teachers as learners are important to understand, but as administrators you also have to work with support staff, secretaries, janitors, maintenance and coaches who may not be teachers. Sometimes their learning conditions will vary greatly from a traditional “teacher learner”. It was interesting to have these discussions.
I felt rushed through the day. I wanted to stop more, reflect more, but when we are together it seems as though we always have so much to “get through”. What a challenge it is to put together a program across such a great geographical span! Hats off, June, for rising to this challenge. At times, I crave a more traditional setting. Yet understand the fact that this is the reality we must work with. I hope that we can continue to work together to improve communications both during and outside of class. I’m convinced that taking some time to learn the technologies involved will help us improve communications for the remainder of this cohort program. It is a worthwhile investment.
One aspect of learning that we discussed in our small group was the difference between theory and practice and the roles each play in teaching and learning. Theory is the idea of how it is supposed to work, while practice is how it actually functions. As a special education teacher, this is my world. In theory, students have a set area of needs, we write goals, work on them, they make progress and achieve their goals. In practice, that isn’t always the case; however without the theory, we wouldn’t be able to even attempt the practice, thus never even having a remote possibility of achieving any goals. The question arose: Why should we even care about theory? I believe it is the foundation of learning the practice of your trade. It is why as preservice teachers we learn about educational philosophy, learning theories and child development. Without the big picture, we cannot begin to build the puzzle; the pieces would be randomly placed and the picture could remain undefined.
Looking forward, the creation of a professional development program is an exciting task. I think that the lack of planning that goes into the theory of professional development in schools results in a practice that is looked upon by teachers in a negative way. It was interesting that so many people referenced the Writing Project as a good model of professional development. I was doing a search the other day for positive professional development models and the Writing Project model was referenced in several blogs. The essential elements of community building, having a strong mission, a clear vision and structured protocol all contribute to the success of the model. Much of our plan in our group will be focused and adapted from things learned through our experiences with the Upper Peninsula Writing Project. It is interesting to think about the entire project as a whole and how they have successfully replicated the model across the nation. I love listening to Suzanne tell the story of how Jim Gray came to Marquette when the UPWP was rebirthed and kept insisting over and over again to “do what he said!” Essentially he was telling her to follow the protocol, even though at that time he didn’t use that terminology. “It works! You’ll see.” He told her repeatedly. Learning through the study of best practices. Learn from those who have experienced success, repeatedly. That’s a good lesson.