Teaching Opinion

Going Down the Rabbit Hole for Deeper Learning

By Starr Sackstein — April 04, 2019 3 min read
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After I watch a movie or read a book that moves me, the search is on. I’m compelled to dig up as much information as possible to help me understand the full context of what drew me in.

For example, after watching the latest A Star is Born on one of my flights (much later than most normal people), I was eager to know more about production, how things came to be, and how this one movie made over several times could still be so engaging and fresh in its fourth iteration. The story is the same, but the time, actors, and circumstances change slightly.

Being obsessed with learning has its perks, and now that we have a robust and expansive place like the internet accessible to us from the comforts of our homes, a person can find his/herself glued to a computer for hours.

At least this person can.

As educators, we have a professional obligation to be readers, explorers, curious purveyors of interesting information. Aside from growing as learners ourselves and modeling the behavior, it allows us to bring deeper passions to our students.

When I first read the first Harry Potter book, I had no idea how deeply I would fall in love. But I eagerly waited for each new book and each new movie and then anything I could get my hands on that helped me see it deeper.

Of course, as a High School English teacher, being obsessed with fiction isn’t uncommon, but the lengths I will go to really empathize with characters, connect with my students, and develop a broader understanding of the world is. It’s not enough to just know what I read, I must dig deeper.

And it’s amazing to me that author’s like J.K. Rowling get that or else she wouldn’t have explored the rich and interesting lives of her characters, far beyond what was shared on the pages. Pottermore, her Potter platform, was an exciting opportunity to engage with her and other fans. My students and I waited for the opportunity to get into the beta test together, and once we were in and were sorted into our houses, it was a constant source of discussion.

But I never stopped there, I read fan Wikis and watched YouTube videos about lesser characters and interviews with Rowling herself to really wrap my brain around “the how.”

As a writer, this intrigues me. I have my process and I know my students and colleagues may have their own as well. Like artists, writers require practice and develop idiosyncracies that can make us a little odd. (Of course, I am a little odd anyway.)

But it isn’t just with fiction that we must embrace this verve for learning, we must do it with our practice as well. The longer we teach, we owe it to ourselves and our students and our world to keep learning in whatever ways it makes sense to us to do so. It seems counterproductive that school systems need to have requirements for professional learning, as one would hope that educators would be compelled to do as they say and not only as they expect others to do.

We must be the learning. Walk the walk that we talk or else how can we be taken seriously as a group of professionals. Many complain that the media and folks outside of education criticize education for a plethora of reasons, but this just shouldn’t be one of them.

The times change. Students change. Content evolves, and so too, must we.

When I started teaching, I promised myself that if I ever stopped loving it, I would stop doing it because it didn’t serve me or my students if I just did it to collect a check. For me, that wasn’t enough.

And to that end, I’m thinking I may jump down the psychology rabbit hole next to figure out why so many people are resistant to learning and change. It can’t just be fear. That is starting to feel like an oversimplification or an excuse.

More importantly, how do we create a rabbit hole that any learner would want to jump down?

As a person deeply committed to teaching and learning, I’m going to start trying to figure out how to bring everyone along with me.

What are your favorite “rabbit holes” to explore? Please share

*Picture made using Pablo.com

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