The Challenge this week is about being a teacher and a student…. Normally this would be an easy thing for me to respond to. I can go on, and on, and on, about my time as an educator, my love of teaching, and how I consider myself to be a life-long-educator.
And I love to learn. I love being in school, taking classes, doing research, exploring new crafts and approaches to things, and even writing papers (taking tests, not as much… but putting together presentations and showcases, sure!)
But, then I got hit by this ridiculous sense of disappointment, because I said I was going to do “Blogger University 101” and the Zero to Hero assignments, and I really haven’t. I wanted to engage deeply with that community, and I haven’t. I wanted to explore the assignments and use the wisdom and ideas to improve my blog, and I haven’t.
And yes. I’ve had a myriad of reasonable excuses that have kept me from doing the work, but, asking me to reflect on being a teacher and a student makes me realize that I haven’t done these things. And it makes me feel like I just really want to do them. And so… why not? Why not do the assignments as I can, as time and energy allows? This isn’t like school where I would have to be asking for an extension, I can simply make notes of the assignments, and the purpose of them (why are we doing this? What am I supposed to be taking from it? Does my blog need it/Do I need it?) and go through them as I can.
In some ways this realization ties into other elements of my life right now. The reminder that I can take my learning at my own pace. As a student in school you have deadlines assigned, teachers and term-schedules dictating how long you have for each assignment or unit of learning. And this often leads to cutting corners. I’d like to meet anyone who has gone through 12+ years of education and has never once simply skimmed the last chapters of a book they were supposed to read. Or anyone, faced with the need to increase a papers word-count hasn’t dealt with it by eliminating contractions and adding superfluous words rather than expanding and deepening content. Who hasn’t settled for what they knew was less than their best work, or let certain lines of research and inquiry slide because there simply wasn’t enough time?
I am, by all standards I’ve encountered, a good student. I always got good grades, I showed up to class and paid attention, I worked hard on my assignments. I don’t say this to brag (okay, maybe to brag a little because I am proud of what I have achieved in my education, and I have worked VERY hard for it), but because I know that I have skimped corners and skimmed material. Usually beating myself up a little bit on the way, but ultimately figuring that I am getting the bulk of what I should be from the assignment.
And I have stacks of books and articles that I have had to put aside with the thought that I will return to them later, because the content interests me but I simply have run out of time.
But outside of those structures of school, those imposed deadlines, plenty of learning can occur. And should occur.
In all my childcare work I’ve been a big advocate for learning through play and exploration. I’m a huge fan of Reggio Emilia approach to education, but often forget to allow myself to take a self-directed approach, to recognize the learning that can come through inquiry and play.
When faced with projects I need to do to advance my own personal goals, I find myself reverting to setting deadlines, to placing dates and expectations on the project in order to try and put myself on a schedule. And I wonder if that perhaps isn’t the way to do it. Instead of saying “I must have X, Y and Z done by Such-and-Such a date,” why not set goals of activity “I want to make sure to work on this-and-that a little bit every day.” Why not recognize the work inherent in the “play” that I do?
So, looking over the blogger university activities (rather than assignments), I see things that I have done –For instance, I have engaged with fellow bloggers, I have tried reaching out some to the community and following tags and links to find other blogs of interest.
And I am giving myself that extension. I am learning that I need to give myself a break and look, instead of at the assignment, at the core reason behind the assignment. Why are we being asked to do this? Have I gotten to the heart of the assignment, even if the assignment itself remains undone?