I am not a conveyor of knowledge.

I love my job. I am proud to tell people that I’m a teacher, and that I’m a math and science teacher. I love to talk mathematics, I love to talk science, and above all, I love to talk about my classroom. In recent days, though, I’ve really begun to shift the way I think about what it is that I do each day. At one point in my career, I would have been nervous to think that I didn’t have all the answers for the questions that were going to come my way. Now, I embrace the questions. I have some answers, sometimes, and sometimes I don’t. And that’s okay — see, those moments when I’m posed with a question that I haven’t anticipated, or that I don’t know the answer to, is whaen my learning happens. And it’s when my students’ learning happens too.

Recently, I told my students that I didn’t think that, as their math teacher, or as their science teacher, that it wasn’t actually my job to teach them math or science, but rather to provide the conditions in our classroom to help them be the best learners they could be, within the context of the math and science curriculum. The reality of it all is, if my students have a question about something, they aren’t going to think, ‘Oh well. I have a question. I guess I’ll have to wait to talk to my teacher. I don’t know what to do!”.  No, instead, they are going to ask Google, or Siri, or..gasp…wikipedia. They are going to look up an answer, and go with it. The challenge is, they need the skills to know whether or not the answer that the Internets have provided is an accurate one. It has been quite astounding to me the number of times I have had kids submit work or overhear them talking and realize that they’ve googled an answer and actually have no idea what it means.

So, I’m moving away from being “the conveyor of knowledge” in my classroom, to being a “co-learner”.  This means that my time is spent participating in the building of knowledge with my students. I work each day to provide the conditions for learning — it’s my goal to teach my students how to be good learners, within the context of the curriculum areas that I am responsible for. It means that sometimes, as part of the lesson, I tell kids to google something or to ask Siri, and then we write down what those sources have to say, and analyze it. We ask questions about it. Most of the time we say, “What does that actually mean!?”. And then the kids realize they are creating and sharing the knowledge building. I am not simply transmitting ideas to them — it’s creative, it’s messy, it’s shared. Sometimes we argue. Sometimes we don’t arrive an “answer”, or “solution”, but we always learn something, about the content, and about ourselves. It’s exhilarating!

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