No One Needs to Teach You (Or...What I Learned About Professional Development From My Vacuum Cleaner)
It all started with my vacuum cleaner and its lack of suction.
I stood there, dumbfounded and helpless, considering my options: Beg my handyman neighbor for help? Pack up the damn thing and drop it at the repair shop? Swing by Wal-Mart and purchase a new one? How much was this going to cost me? And what would befall my crumb-ridden carpet in the meantime?
My 16 year-old, passing by on his umpteenth visit to the refrigerator that afternoon, and spying me confounded, motionless, and fully absorbed in my interior monologue, simply inquired, “Why don’t you YouTube it?”
Out of the mouths of teenagers…
And so I YouTubed it.
In under an hour, I’d dismantled the rotor, cleaned the brush roller, checked the hose and intake, un-hooked and re-hooked the electrical connection doo-hickey, and assembled everything all pretty and brand new(ish). I plugged her back in and...it worked! It really, really worked! (Oh, the sweet sound of a million bits of detritus being sucked up!)
I did it.
All by myself and without the help of a repairman, a salesperson, or a customer service rep. (Okay, yeah, I had Debbie, the YouTuber, but still.) The point is that I--someone who must have grabbed a catnap when God handed out mechanical acumen--managed to single-handedly repair a household appliance.
I did it.
Is there any single phrase more fraught with promise and potential and triumph?
I did it.
Holy cow, did I feel empowered, informed, educated! What could I do next?
I did it.
Wait a minute…I’ve heard that phrase before. Where had I heard that phrase before?
I'd heard it in the classroom. From students.
But not just from any students. Students who were allowed to (or encouraged to or maybe even forced to) figure it out for themselves. And when they did--when they embraced their power of self-discovery--they owned it.
I don’t need to elaborate upon the metaphor here. I think if you’ve read this far, you get the point: let’s stop feeding information to our students and let’s enjoy them figuring it out for themselves. The age of knowledge-depositing is sooooooo over; the age of knowledge acquisition is thriving. And it looks like it might do so for a very long time to come.
This take-learning-into-your-own-hands thing doesn’t apply only to students, by the way. I hear the following lament from educators with such frequency during my training and professional development sessions that I’m ready to drink bleach: “No one taught this to me before!” (You think I’m kidding about the bleach.)
Guess what, buttercup? No one needs to teach you anything. In fact, if you’re sitting around waiting to be taught, then you’ve defeated the whole purpose of learning.
Learning (in this case, professional development) should be something we seek out for ourselves and not something that’s done to us. We can’t inspire a generation of students while simultaneously waiting around for someone to appear and drop their knowledge bombs on us.
My sons didn’t require professional development to learn how to play Minecraft or Pokemon Go. They didn’t wait around for someone to teach it to them. They figured it out for themselves. That's what this generation does--and we should do it, too.
Want to learn how the Google Forms quiz version works? Get in there and play with it. Want to use HyperDocs in the classroom? YouTube it. Don’t know how all these new online formative assessment tools work? Then, sunshine, it’s time to visit the online help section. Or simply Google it.
Be inspired by our students. Be inspired by those who inspire them in turn. (Like Casey Neistat, for example, whose life exemplifies the I-did-it-without-anyone-teaching-me mentality and has almost seven million YouTube followers to prove it.)
Go teach yourself something today.
Gotta run now. Time to tackle my dryer vent.
5/8/2018 01:25:39 pm
Broken vacuum cleaner! Who knew? I love the take the bull by the horns attitude and advice to apply that to the classroom. Most students are naturally inquisitive so it makes sense to tap into that enthusiasm and tell them to figure it out. As a teacher who frequently flies in to rescue students, I need to remind myself that they need opportunities to grow on their own.
5/10/2018 01:12:58 pm
I'm a total rescuer, so I get it! :-)
5/9/2018 05:22:30 pm
"Let's enjoy" their "figuring it out for themselves!"
5/10/2018 01:14:31 pm
"The vacuumed dust of past practices." Brilliant! And I think it's certainly appropriate to share with parents the idea of the growth mindset from the start.
5/13/2018 07:23:43 pm
I totally know where you are coming from with the feeling of "I did it." Throughout this entire grant I have felt the same way. Before this year, I didn't understand how to effectively use technology in my teaching. Now, I just finished creating one of the best projects I have ever made for my U.S. History students. This project includes technology I didn't understand a year ago.
5/13/2018 07:52:57 pm
The Industrial Arts teacher at my school has been recommending this option to me for at least two years. Sadly, it took me way too long to realize he was right, and like you, even though I had little to no understanding of what I was trying to work with, I could still find something out there in the technological universe to help me. Great advice.
5/14/2018 12:11:16 pm
This is exactly how I changed the spark plug on the lawn mower! I like to rely on my husband for a lot of things like this and he has become my pusher. Always forcing me to try it myself and figure it out. I hate and love him for it. That "I did it" feeling is great!
5/14/2018 04:25:08 pm
I commented on this earlier, but it didn’t post :(
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Learning Designer. Instructional Coach. Trainer. Working my hardest to create Teacher-Bordered Classrooms.