“This change in roles may be one of the greatest shifts in our profession—from being the keeper of knowledge to being a model for how to learn” (Jacobs and Alcock 35).
This week I finished reading Bold Moves for Schools: How We Create Remarkable Learning Environments by Heidi Hayes Jacobs and Marie Hubley Alcock. The goal of the book is admirable and huge: to sift through all the clamor of new and competing claims in education, pick out the best, and put them together in a way that schools can be getting on with. I particularly liked the first 2 chapters, looking at students and then at teachers. But the chapter on environment overwhelmed me: I can’t begin to wrap my mind around what it would take in planning and training to make flexible groupings for students, teachers, and time actually work. Still, the way the book structured its discussion of the new roles of learner and teacher gave me a new metaphor, it connected to other things I’m learning this summer, and it motivated me to take some steps in a direction I’ve been meaning to head.
The metaphor is learning as navigation. We’re getting swamped in a sea of information; the need is staying afloat, determining a destination, and then using the tools (boat, sails, rudder) and the power (wind, currents) at our disposal to get there. We want students to become self-navigators, so as teachers, we have to be skilled navigators ourselves, as well as skilled at coaching others. “With Internet-based investigation, we are finding students launched into a vast new world without established game or performance rules. They need navigation coaches” (19). One big danger in that vast new world is confirmation bias—that is going to become an important vocabulary word in all my classes this year.
As teachers act as models and coaches (the term at my school is the “living curriculum”), the list of roles for learners and teachers is remarkably similar. For example, the first role for learners is “self-navigators,” and the first role for teachers is “self-navigating professional learners.” See the chart below for the rest:
Jacobs and Alcock helpfully supply action steps for teachers wanting to develop in any of those 6 roles. See below for the action steps for becoming a self-navigating professional learner (Figure 2.3 on page 34).
One of the things I get most excited about as a learner myself, and about seeing students do, is making connections. I’m reaching that “critical mass” point in my summer professional development reading where everything is beginning to connect to everything else. The innovation role of learners and teachers dovetails with Creating Innovators (they even quote Tony Wagner!) and Sparking Student Creativity. The chapter on assessment and curriculum touched on topics addressed in Fair Isn’t Always Equal, In the Best Interests of Students, and the new book I’ve just started, Setting the Standard for Project Based Learning.
While I think English teachers have a jump on some of the subject areas as far as being aware that we need to be the chief readers and writers in the room in order to model and coach the developing readers and writers, a lot of us are also challenged by the expanding demands of internet literacy. Reading this challenged me to expand my media involvement by bringing podcasts and videos into class not as “extras” but as texts to study both for content and as models of speaking/presenting. In the Best Interest of Students also emphasized using podcasts and TED Talks as mentor texts for the speaking/listening standards. The first thing I did was look up the Malcolm Gladwell podcast Revisionist History, since AP 11 students are reading Gladwell’s book David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants this summer. I’d heard of the podcast, and this motivated me to finally listen to it. I really enjoyed the one episode I listened to, and I need to listen to a few more to find one that will fit well in one of our units. I also scanned through my Pinterest boards to find resources I knew I’d stashed there—Cult of Pedagogy’s “8 Great Educational Podcasts for Kids,” “5 TED Talks for the AP Lang & Comp Classroom,” and “9 TED Talks Recommended by Students, for Students.”
In the conclusion, Jacobs and Alcock challenge the reader to take charge of the narrative about what teaching and learning are. That, it struck me, is exactly why I do this blog—to be a self-navigating learner, a social contractor, a media publisher, an innovative designer (as I reflect on my own practice), and an advocate for learners and learning, as I tell stories about the things I learn, think about, and try in my classroom, to put my two bits into shaping the professional narrative.