Thursday, 3 November 2016

I never thought I'd.........

During the weekend I went to look at a gym with the idea that I might sign up as a member.  I invited my sister to come along with me  - she has a good understand of gym culture and what to look for.

While standing outside waiting for my sister I said to myself, talking to myself is certainly something that happens frequently in my world, I never thought I would see the day when I considered signing up for a gym.  My brother Bruce and sister Shona got all the fitness genes when they were born leaving me  feeling quite allergic to exercise all of my life.  So I never thought I’d see the day I joined a gym!!!!!!   Through my one way conversation I realised that there have been many times recently when I could have used that same term - ‘I never thought I’d …’ and therefore came to the conclusion that life is full of ‘I never thought I’d….’.

It does seem that in recent years the term ‘I never thought I’d…’ has been used with more frequency in my life.  For instance I never thought I’d jump out of a plane  especially since I have a fear of heights and get vertigo - hmmm but I did.  I never thought I’d go to Phuket for a holiday with my son - but I did.  I never thought I would speed out into the open ocean in a jet boat - the bounce terrifies me and the rock and roll of the sea when we stop certainly makes me feel squeamish.  But I did and laughed at the rolling swells which were higher than the boat. I never thought I would speak in front of a large crowd of people and enjoy it - but I do frequently.  Actually I use to be mysteriously absent from school during school speech day.

This growing change in attitude originated from when I realised that I was a learner.  I trained later in life to be a teacher having failed at secondary school.  I say failed very purposefully because that was how I felt - and how I felt about myself as a learner counts because the end goal of all education is to create life long learners.  I did not feel, or know I was a learner when I left college and the outcome of this was to lessen my horizons. As I studied to complete my teaching degree (in my 40s) I connected with a passion and found that I was a learner after all.  Knowing that I am a learner was life changing because it changed my attitude to life or more importantly my understanding of what it was possible for me to achieve and experience.  My view was lifted to the possibilities for learning and for experiencing life to its fullest, broadening my horizons.  The change has gathered momentum, this maybe due to realised successes that have spurred me on to try different challenges and experiences which often take me out of my comfort zone.  There is a saying, ‘Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.’

In Carol Dweck’s book Mindset she wrote, “What or earth would make someone a nonlearner? Everyone is born with an intense drive to learn.  Infants stretch their skills daily…..What could put an end to this exuberant learning? The fixed mindset.  As soon as children become able to evaluate themselves, some of them become afraid to challenges.”

As teachers of any age group we should be driven to support life long learning.  In order to do this we need to give learners the opportunity to learn through their passion, to tinker with their own ideas, find solutions to their own problems, take responsibility for their own learning and to have opportunities to succeed through persistence.  Writers such as Carol Dweck, Nathan Mikaere-Wallis, Peter Gray, Sir Ken Robinson and many more have influenced me and the way I think about teaching and learning.  Learners of all ages and developmental stages need to have the opportunity to lead their own learning otherwise as Nathan Mikaere-Wallis says we can just be parrots who are able to parrot back the right answers. 

The goal is to grow learners who are resilient, who have grit and a growth mindset.  We want young adults to leave the education system knowing that they are learners who are able to rise to new challenges with a positive attitude to learning and life.  Growing this starts in early childhood and continues into every sectors.  Teachers have the possibility to grow thinkers and learners by being open to the possibilities when thinking about brain development research and the implication this has for education.  Education has the possibility to shift from an industrial model as teachers reflect on world wide research and models of education that are working well.    Play based learning is gaining momentum in primary school as is inquiry based learning.  There are growing conversations about continuity of learning between sectors which means we have to focus on the commonalities and create a shared understanding about wise teaching practice across all education sectors in order to sustain meaningful and deeply embedded change.  What is different about 21st century learning or are we using the same model that our great-grandparents used.

We want to support learners to have a growth mindset in order for them to cope with an ever changing world.  The question is, are we as teachers confident that we are accomplishing the desired outcome to grow thinkers and learners, young people with a growth mindset who are able to rise to the challenges and experiences that the world has to offer? We want young people who are able to face uncertainity and think I always thought I could….