Monday, July 9, 2012

Lifelong Learning

Artists Name: Stella Lee
School: Northview High School
I recently engaged in a relatively short discussion with @wmchamberlain (one of many teachers I follow on twitter) about lifelong learning. The discussion started with a question he posed asking what people were learning over the summer and I responded by describing that I have spent the summer teaching myself how to sew (with the immense help of both youtube and books ordered from Amazon). He shared that he was experimenting with art making. I pointed to a website that I thought might help in his journey and he gave me some encouragement, too.

Even though the "conversation" lasted a few lines back and forth, it has got me thinking about the concept of lifelong learning and how we engage students in this. It also got me thinking about how I engage in my own learning and what motivates me to want to learn new things.

I have always had an interest in how things are made. It is one of the reasons I wanted to be an artist and it is also why I wanted to be an art teacher - I also enjoy teaching others how to make things. I have had a sewing machine since 2006, but did not start using it until about a year ago. Why did I not learn to sew earlier? It might be because inheriting the machine was the result of my mother-in-law's passing, it might be because I didn't want to pay for a class when I had other bills and monetary concerns to think about, but it was probably because I wasn't ready to learn how to do it yet.

You can lead a horse to water, right? Anyway, whatever the reason is for me not wanting to learn how to sew then doesn't matter now because I am engaged and interested and as a result have not only created things that I am proud of but have been able to share those creations with others.

As I reflected on my own process of learning (and the fact that a lot of it involved failure, frustration, retrying things, research on the internet, and some help from experienced experts), it got me thinking about my classroom and how I can infuse this experience there. If I want my students to experience learning the way I did then I need to create an environment where experimentation, investigation, and following interests are important. If I want students to be engaged, then I need to be open to the fact that they are all in different points in their learning careers and even though I may lead them to water, it is up to them to figure out when they are ready to drink... I also have to give myself a break (and my students, too) when they are not and realize that just because something doesn't work out once doesn't mean they (or I) should never try it again. The most important thing I will bring to my classroom from this experience is my story. I will share with my students how I learned to sew and how I taught myself by doing research, failing, taking risks, and finally achieving my goal.

There is a great lifelong learning opportunity coming up August 5-10 through the MAEA Summer Professional Development Institute. Today is the early registration deadline and if you have been putting off learning something because you weren't ready yet, hopefully you will take this opportunity to learn in a community of experts that will guide and encourage you along the way.

If you have a learning story from this summer, or have taken a workshop in previous Summer PDI's please share your story below.

1 comment:

  1. What a great post and such wise advice! I do a lot of things in my classroom to introduce new things, simply because I think one of my students might be interested in it. I never thought that something they experienced in my class might be revisited by them later.

    I am 'creating' art this summer. I am also learning to play a guitalele which is a combination of guitar and ukulele. There are no professional or monetary rewards that come with learning art or music for me, I am just enjoying it. Who knows what will strike my fancy next. :)