Thursday, March 7, 2013

Learning is Messy... Cause Life is Messy

original photo:
I have accepted that learning is messy. I feel it in my heart and in my bones. I recognize when it's happening, and I ride the messy wave the best I can, running from student to student, trying to have meaningful, individualized, powerful moments. Trying to teach.
Accepting the messiness doesn't mean I always enjoy the mess. I think that deep down inside I still have a goal to see things through in a way that satisfies that part of me that wants a neat little package, tied up with string. It's like when you spend a lot of energy cleaning the kitchen. You get a moment of pleasant satisfaction as you look around to gleaming countertops and an empty, shiny sink. Then you cook a meal. Or your kids eat a snack and forget to clean up after themselves (or are my kids the only ones who do that?)

The house would stay clean if only...
if only no one lived there.

Learning is messy because life is messy. And learning is life. And there's really no way around it. 

I've been working with MJGDS librarian and teacher extraordinaire, Karin Hallett, on some research projects with 2nd and 3rd graders. We try to reflect after each session, assessing and discussing the mess, strategizing new things to try. It's a bit like cleaning up the kitchen except that cleaning the kitchen is the same process each time, while the process of teaching and learning is iterative. We try to fail forward

Really it's not failure in any sense. It's actually formative assessment. And reflection. And coaching. It's teaching real students WHERE THEY ARE not where we think they should be. And that is a big, fun, challenging mountain to climb.