Teaching Opinion

All Educators Need to Keep Learning

By Starr Sackstein — January 16, 2019 3 min read
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Regardless of how many years you’ve been in education, the one thing that remains consistent is the absolute need for continuous learning.

It is essential that if we are expecting others to maintain a growth mindset and exhibit characteristics of continuous learning, then we, as educators and leaders have a moral obligation to be what we expect.

Additionally, if we are railing against systems that have been in place since the system started, then it is incumbent upon us all, to keep reading, exploring, discussing, problem-finding, and problem-solving. If we don’t, then we are contributing to the problems we complain about.

Recently I told a colleague that my superpower is finding loopholes and figuring out how to exploit them for the benefit of student learning. This is how I changed my classroom while I was teaching. The system demanded letter grades and continuous scored feedback, and I simply refused to do it the way it had always been done.

Because I had taken on additional learning opportunities, became very reflective because of my experience with national-board certification, and participated in a national professional organization, I was around people who were challenging the status quo regularly. Going to conferences wasn’t merely an excuse to get out of the building for a day or two, but it was a fertile adventure with possibilities for new learning that I could be excited to bring back to kids.

And when the opportunity called, I was eager to take students with me on these journeys, so they, too, could experience firsthand how powerful networking with new people and sharing ideas could be. It didn’t hurt that they heard things from outside professionals that echoed the sentiments I was sharing in class. Still not sure why they were always so surprised when someone they hadn’t met gave them the same information I did.

But frankly, I didn’t care how they learned it, as long as they did. Whether it came from me or a colleague, the fact that it had sunk in and they were eager to try it out at school was the gift.

As a leader, this is so as well. It’s important to keep reading, not just industry books that are put out each year, but blogs by teachers and leaders who are in the “trenches” doing the hard work. And in the same way I enjoyed bringing students to journalism conferences with me, I enjoy bringing our team with me to learning opportunities outside of school.

Recently, a colleague and I attended EdCamp Lacey. It was quite a bit farther from home than I expected, but this teacher had never been to an Edcamp, and I wanted to share the experience with her. What I love about these events is, regardless of who I might be in terms of what people think I am based on what I have written, at a conference or an Edcamp, I’m just Starr.

The second we arrived, I put my name on the board to talk about my favorite topic, “Could you teach without grades?” and I knew the teacher would be able to share insight about her own current experiences. And she did. Honestly, she shared her challenges and successes, and the other people in the room were grateful for having the opportunity to have heard what she shared.

We also got to attend two other sessions, on one growth mindset and feedback, and another on positive uses of social media in schools. Big shout out to Neal Desai , who led those discussions, and to Erin Geiger for getting up at 5 a.m. on a Saturday to drive to South Jersey with me to learn.

Learning is addictive. The adrenalin that comes from getting new information to share and try out gets me all kinds of inspired. When I’m reading or listening to books that really resonate, I enjoy throwing ideas around in my mind and bouncing them off of other people. It’s how we thrive.

How do you motivate and model continual learning for your students or your team? Please share

*Picture made with pablo.com

The opinions expressed in Work in Progress are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.