A dear friend of mine is in her 70s. She still runs circles around me (maybe not literally but academically, for sure) in terms of staying current with all the latest research and literature on what good teaching looks like. If I have a question for her about how to design a particular activity to achieve a particular learning goal, she is my go-to person.
She has been asked many times, "How long are you going to keep doing consulting and teaching?" Her answer is, "As long as I still want to". I started thinking about that, and I have discovered I feel the exact same way. My dear husband, Dave, has been retired for almost four years, now, and he doesn't take any of that for granted. He loves playing golf 8 days a week (okay, so maybe that is a slight exaggeration, but not by much). People often ask me, "So now that Dave is retired, when are you going to retire?" My answer has always been, "As long as I continue to love what I do". But recently, I heard a teacher say, "I'm going to keep teaching as long as I keep loving learning." I think that is a pretty cool concept. As long as I am learning, I am going to keep teaching. And right now, I am learning so very much. From whom?
First of all, I learn so much from reading new professional literature that comes out. As a consultant for administrators who need help coaching their teachers in new strategies, techniques, and practices, I love finding articles and books. Some of my favorite books to use for classroom strategies in the area of questioning, discussion skills, and student engagement are: Doug Lemov's Teach Like a Champion (2015) and Bambrick-Santoyo's Get Better Faster (2016). They both have helped me help teachers many times, as have many other references. I don't get any kickbacks from their publishing companies, by the way; I just know good resources when I read them.
Second of all, I am constantly learning new tricks and tips from my own workshop participants. I truly believe I have never taught a workshop in which I didn't learn at least one new thing from my participants. I also have learned (a long time ago) that the sooner I form relationships with my participants, the better our sessions are. I recently conducted a one-hour marketing session and I found myself a little sad that I didn't have more time to spend with these lovely people. I wanted to go deeper (and I suspect they did, too) into content and talk with them and hear their thoughts, but I actually was the only thing separating them from lunch, so I knew I couldn't go over my time (I may be slow, but I am not that slow). I did learn something a few weeks ago from a workshop participant that I had never thought of. I use chimes in my teaching, as a way to transition back from small group or table group discussions back to full-group sharing out or back to me delivering content. Often, people will joke about the ringing of the chimes reminding them of that secretary from Grease. By the way, I tried using a singing bowl, and I found out I simply was miserable at it. I need to give it away as a doorprize as it is doing me absolutely no good. So, I used the chimes throughout the day a few weeks ago, and then when I got the feedback from my participants, everyone said how great the day had been and wrote some incredible insights into what they had learned. But one comment struck me as odd: "No more xylophone" it read. Wait, what? Well, as luck would have it, I had the opportunity to see this gentleman again a few days ago. I took a chance, and I asked him, "So, you didn't like the chimes, huh?" He smiled at me, but very clearly said, "Not at all." I asked, "Would you mind telling me the reason?" He shrugged his shoulders and said, "They remind me of when I was placed in a reservation school. It brought back really bad memories." Wow! Talk about cultural awareness. I had no idea! We talked a little bit about that, and I thanked him for teaching me something new I would have never discovered on my own.
The other way I learn and continue to grow is through teaching masters' courses in Educational Leadership. These students are teachers who will someday want to become school leaders. I get so excited about the prospect of working with them on courses like Education Finance, Education Law, Growing and Developing School Leaders, School Culture, and more. I get told that I "grade hard", sometimes. But often, I find that these students who want to become principals are struggling to communicate effectively. I am trying my very best to act as a role model for their growth in written and oral language. Are there times I get frustrated? Absolutely! I get the occasional student who gripes that, "Just because I turned in my paper four days late, why do you have to take off points?" Ummm....maybe because deadlines are there for a reason?? Another favorite of mine is, "I thought I had turned that paper in, but you never got it." Nope! But that occasional student will say, "But if I thought it was turned in, shouldn't I still get credit for it?" Ummmm....if the paper is not in the gradebook, I actually have a tough time grading it. And, by the way, if you spell the word that defines school leader as "principle" instead of "principal", I don't believe you should be one. On the other hand, I have students who write such profound responses to the discussion questions, I have to pause and think about what their take-away means to ME as a professional learner and educator.
No, I never want to stop learning, but when I do, I'll likely stop teaching.
By the way, with all the travel I do, I have also learned tips and tricks to talking with airlines and hotels. Griping and complaining never seems to get anywhere, and yet I watch people do it all the time, trying to get what they want. I have learned over the years to ask for what I want and press for a viable solution to problems that inevitably crop up with frequent travel (delays, lost luggage, no towels in my hotel room, a snoring man in the room next to me that I'm certain could wake the dead, etc.). Dave is one of my greatest teachers in this arena, as he traveled for work for years. "If you don't ask, you won't get anything", he reminds me.
I think I'll continue to learn so I continue to grow, and I pray you do the same.