Professional Realizations of 2009

Many changes happened for me professionally in 2009-  the biggest being a change from a classroom teacher to an instructional coach.  I have gained a lot of knowledge from my new position, and I have gained a lot of knowledge from classes I have taken, but I think the biggest impact on my behavior for the new year will come not from new knowledge,  but rather from the realizations that I gained in 2009.  Below are the probably biggest 3, in no particular order.

Realization #1:  Teaching adults is much like teaching students:

Differentiation, differentiation, differentiation.  When it comes to new ideas, whether it be instructional strategies, technology, or brain-based learning, adults come to you with their own prior knowledge and experiences just like students.  And yet, they may come to you with no prior knowledge whatsoever.  It’s important to find where they are and start from there.  Moving forward will be extremely difficult if you don’t and may just increase the learning gap.  Anytime I feel like I’m beating my head against the wall, I now realize I need to step back and determine just where this learner is in their beliefs, values, and understandings and take myself to where they are in order to move them forward, or be willing to continue to fight their resistance.

Which feeds into the next realization,

Realization #2:  Resistance doesn’t always mean disagreement

I realized that sometimes my enthusiasm when working with adults can mistakenly be translated as an insult to their current practice.  When in fact, I just hadn’t taken the time to notice how or where their current practice matched with the new idea, strategy, etc. that I was presenting to them.  It’s not that they disagree with the new idea I am presenting, they just don’t understand how it matches or enhances their current practice and beliefs.  Which holds truth to Theodore Roosevelt’s quote,  “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”  By listening to the hopes and concerns of the learner first, I can then match my enthusiasm to their needs.  In turn, they don’t feel insulted and are more open to suggestions and collaboration in the teacher-to-teacher manner that was intended.

Realization #3:  Having a colleague that you can reflect with is invaluable.

If you don’t have a colleague that you can have honest dialogue, feedback, and discussion with, find someone!  Find someone that holds the same educational beliefs as you, you have deep respect for, and trust.  Question each other, challenge and encourage one another.  I realized it’s difficult to keep yourself challenged and motivated if you don’t have someone to reflect with, at least once a week (daily if possible), who is on the same level of understanding as you on most things and above your level of understanding on others.  And just as important, is your higher level of understanding for the things they need challenged with.  It’s a reciprocal relationship of honest dialogue, feedback, and discussion that is grounded in the belief that each is capable of great things.

What are some of your biggest realizations of the year past?  How will you apply those realizations in 2010?

I

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