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professional development, Teacher Reflection

Life Lessons

In the field of education, the notion of “life-long learning” is valued as a highly desired quality for teachers.  In most preservice programs,  teacher education centers around the history of education and how it is ever evolving, educational trends and how things are changing, and the connection between learning theories and instructional practices.  Although many will reply “yes” I am a life long learner, without truly understanding how this foundational knowledge interplays with the mindset of “lifelong learning” such knowledge is useless. 

I would also argue that part of being a life-long learner is the ability to be completely humble and reflect critically on how your students respond to a task.  Do they seem dazedconfused, bored, off-task, uninterested  or aloof? I was giving a presentation recently to a group of teachers and noticed a few were more interested in checking their facebook profile and pinning on Pinterest than exploring how to “unpack” a Common core standard.  At first I chalked it up as the teachers own shortcomings and their disinterest in participating in the professional development workshop, but as I reflected deeper I thought about how I was failing to make the connection to today’s 21 Century Educator, digitally connected with a capacity to multitask.  

As I venture into the realm of higher education I realize that the way I teach shouldn’t simply reflect how I was taught and what I believe to be valuable, but it should encompass the skills and knowledge that 21 Century educators will need to create an interactive and always engaging learning environment. For today’s lesson I will be creating a virtual mindmap and skipping the Power Point. 

I will ask my students to reflect on this blog post and think about a “life lesson” they recently had in their classroom and how it will impact their practice.  

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About Dr. Dickenson

I am an assistant professor of Teacher Education at National University in San Jose.


37 thoughts on “Life Lessons

  1. Our school district has switched over to the Next Generation Science Standards in order to better meet the science needs of our diverse student population. Because I am a hands-on teacher and always excited to try new things, this was an easy transition for me. However, I noticed that a lot of my co-workers are having a lot of trouble balancing this new transition. Many of them have given up on the Next Generation Science Standards and against the wishes of our district they are refusing to teach it. I believe it is important to be a life long learner in order to remain flexible to the changes that often succumb this profession. The more flexible we are as teachers, the better we will be able to adapt to the different learning styles of our students, which is our primary focus.


    Posted by Lauren Brown | October 11, 2015, 4:18 am
  2. Life Lessons from the Classroom
    When I was a freshman in college the teacher of my two-dimensional design class gave an hour-long demonstration on how to use a pen. When she announced there would be a demo on using a pen I thought it was ridiculous, but I wound up learning some things I didn’t know. What it really taught me, though, was that students have to be taught everything. I had a similar experience during Wednesday’s live class, when Dr. Dickenson gave direct instruction on how to actively listen. While she was explaining how to actively listen it seemed a little silly to me, but during our introductions everyone at the table, including me, asked follow up questions of each other, which I doubt would have happened if Dr. Dickenson had not told us to do so—I know her instruction is what made me ask my follow up questions.

    Implications on my Practice
    At one of my jobs I recently began doing homework help with kindergarteners, and they were having trouble lining up. A few days ago I decided to spend some of their homework time working on lining up (for kindergarteners lining up is homework). It turned out their main issue was not holding the door for each other. I demonstrated how to hold the door for the person behind, and the kinders all eagerly copied my example, their line moving smoothly into the classroom. They still struggle with lining up, but we will continue to practice.
    I had a similar experience with a high school class I teach, in which I wanted the class to make a ½” grid on a sheet of letter size paper. I knew, even in high school, there would be at least a few students who did not know how to use a ruler. I told the class we were going to spend the first 10 minutes of class going over the different increments on the ruler, and how to identify them using the different length marks. As I began the demo a girl in the back asked, “Do you really need to show us how to use a ruler? Is this really necessary?” I asked where the ½” mark was, and most of the class responded. I asked where the ¼” mark was, and most of the class responded. I asked what the mark at ¾” indicated, and only several students responded. The girl in the back exclaimed, “Okay, so I guess we really do need to learn how to use a ruler!”


    Posted by Jeff Castleman | October 11, 2015, 5:29 am
  3. I recently subbed in a fifth grade classroom. On the day of my visit, the children had a LA test. The teacher left instructions for me to put on music during the test. I put the CD on, as instructed. I was amazed at how focused the kids were on taking their tests. This particular CD had a variety of different and fun songs on it, some were patriotic songs, and there were even Christmas songs on it. Some were slow, others were upbeat. The children seemed to be in such a pleasant mood for the entire 40 minutes and I experienced no behavior problems. During this time, I was working to administer the test to three students, who receive resource services, and I noticed that I could not focus at all. I kept re-reading the paragraph and questions, and was making no progress. I almost wanted to get up and turn off the music so that I could focus on what I was reading. This experience really caused me to reflect on my own experience in school. When I was a kid, teachers wanted the classroom silent while taking tests or completing classwork. I think that this may be why I struggle to read and complete work if there are a lot of distractions and noise. I have never been able to listen to music while completing homework. I did a little research as to why teachers are now providing their students with music during testing and classwork and after speaking to a few high school teachers, they informed me that it is now a preference and children produce a better product when listening to music. I was told that one theory is that children in this generation are so over stimulated, that they actually do better with distractions. I will definitely utilize this tactic, however, I will be mindful that there may be children in the classroom like myself, that struggle to focus when there are distractions, such as music.

    Liked by 1 person

    Posted by Jamie Phillips | October 11, 2015, 4:48 pm
    • Yes we do all learn differently and what I hear from you is that not only do you acknowledge this but you also recognize it TAKES TIME to adapt. This is so important to recognize as a classroom manager because we just assume that if we teach it they should do it immediately but we don’t leave time for them to adapt!! Be patient my Teacher Warriors!


      Posted by Dr. Dickenson | October 13, 2015, 6:13 pm
    • Jaime,

      If you want over stimulated students come visit my Period 5 Algebra I class!!!! I give a big exhale when they walk out of the room. On Monday, I will think about your words and look at the noise and chaos in a slightly different bent. I know some learning is going on. I would certainly like to see a bit more.

      Maybe the music? I’ll have to think about that one.



      Posted by Rich Read | October 18, 2015, 2:13 am
  4. Dr. Dickenson,

    Thank you for sharing your helpful thoughts with us. I would like to focus on one aspect you discussed regarding being a life-long learner and exactly what that encompasses. I agree that being humble and reflecting critically on your students’ work is important when regarding life-long learning. I believe it is vastly important for teachers to reflect critically on their students work, but also their own teaching methods as well. The ability to receive criticism is not as easy as many believe it to be. I was fortunate to learn the necessary skills at a young age through extracurricular athletics and activities. I learned that if you want to get better at something you must be able to receive feedback. However, yelling at the students will most likely not be viewed in a positive way and therefore the students will lose interest in the task at hand. Therefore, it is essential to know and understand your students and how you should communicate with them as a whole and on an individual level.

    One life-lesson that I recently experienced took place during one of my fourth grade classes. One of my students was displaying poor behavior and distracting other students during instruction, as well as during activity time. This was quite shocking to me because this students has been on task and well behaved every day that he has come to class. My first thought was that this was due to either poor instruction on my part or potentially the student was disinterested in the content. I followed through with my expectations and sat the student out because he broke the rules of the classroom. He did not have to sit for long, as class ended shortly after. Following class time, I met with this student to inquire about his change in behavior. I found out that his father had been admitted into the hospital the prior night and that my student has been constantly worried and upset regarding his father’s health and has experience trouble when staying on task in class. He explained that he did not mean to break the rules, but that talking to his classmates cheers him up and helps not think about his dad being sick. I was taken back by what he had said to me. I was mad at myself for making the assumptions that I did. I understood exactly what he was expressing to me. In order to alleviate the situation, I expressed to my student that I want him to come and speak with me during his lunch period for ten minutes each day. I told him that we can discuss anything that he is comfortable sharing with me regarding his family and their current situation. My goal is for the student to understand that I am there for him and that he matters to me. Marzano & Pickering (2003) state, “Virtually anything you do to show interest in students as individuals has a positive impact on their learning” (p.53).


    Posted by Cole Campana | October 11, 2015, 9:20 pm
    • References

      Marzano, R., & Marzano, J., Pickering, D. (2003). Classroom management that works research-based strategies for every teacher. Alexandria, Va: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.


      Posted by Cole Campana | October 11, 2015, 9:22 pm
    • Cole,
      I love that you took the time to find out the underlying issues with this student. I am sure your empathy and support is going a long way to help him through this difficult time. Furthermore you took a potentially explosive issue and resolved it through COMMUNICATION! As we discussed DAY ONE this is key to ALL your relationships.

      Dr D


      Posted by Dr. Dickenson | October 13, 2015, 6:16 pm
  5. I started off the school year with a discussion with my students that learning to learn will be one of the most valuable skills they can develop. I shared with my classes that the most valuable lesson I learned in school was – how to learn. I actually discovered the skill during the 4th grade and I got very good at it by the time I reached high school.
    In our class we would use the topic of geometry to practice the skill of learning. I told the class that anyone can learn geometry – if they put their minds to it. Yes, effort is required, but that is in the control of the student.
    To illustrate why learning is so important, I gave examples of how desktops, notebooks, cell phones and various other technologies did not exist when I graduated. How could my education have prepared me for the vast changes in technology, globalization, etc.? Learning to learn enabled me to adapt as new technology emerged. I had a friend that challenged an assumption, given to us by a university computer science professor, that 2400 bits per second over a copper wire was all that was possible. My friend was so right. I learned that sometimes you need to challenge the assumptions that are given. Creativity is required to imagine how problems can be solved once you think outside of the box. Critical Thinking is required to evaluate your solutions and come up with optimizations. Today, after the development of encoding techniques, higher frequency clock crystals, phase locked loops, differential signalling, and many other advances allow us to transmit billions of bits per second over a copper wire.
    My success in business would have been meager if I had not also developed my communication skills. There is not much value in a great idea if you cannot convince anyone of it’s merits.
    I pointed out to the class that we cannot know today what jobs will exist in 10-20 years and what skills and knowledge those jobs will require. So it is imperative to learn how learn so you can adapt to an ever changing world.
    Having spent two months with these 9th and 10th grade students, my biggest fear is that they have been spoon fed in school for so long that solving problems on their own is a shock to their sensibilities. I keep hearing “show me how to do it, then I will know how to do it.” How am I supposed to show them how to calibrate their commuter Hyperloop when the technology do not exist yet? What I can do is, work with them on their ability to learn on their own. There is no time better than now to learn how to learn. As Fred Jones says, it is imperative to help each student get over whatever sense of helplessness they may feel. Teachers have to encourage students to take the common core challenge and win. If they think they can, they will achieve their goals. Teachers have to praise progress. Teachers have to motivate students to put their minds to the task. The rewards of being a life-long learner are just too great to ignore.


    Posted by Bill Henry | October 12, 2015, 12:00 am
    • Bill,

      How can I not reply…Google, Wiki, URL, Bluetooth, WiFi, aDSL, and so on. All the tools that are ubiquitous today didn’t exist when we were learning Algebra and Geometry. Students want to get to the answer so quickly because of all that technology we have put in their hands. Access to information is so easy and quick, that when students actually have to “think” about abstract concepts they get frustrated faster than we did.

      I think the trick is to make a connection so that they want to go through the struggle. I can see that about half of the students are naturally curious. I guess half the battle is won…now to find ways to motivate the rest.



      Posted by Rich Read | October 18, 2015, 2:22 am
      • Model, model, model.. You don’t have to show them how to do it but they need to understand that cognitive dissonance is part of the process. Take a problem that you can struggle with and show them how you work through it in multiple iterations. I think once kids see math as a giant jigsaw puzzle rather than a bunch of hoops they need to jump through they can come to learn the process.


        Posted by Dr. Dickenson | October 20, 2015, 10:07 pm
  6. I think everyone is a life-long learner and if you do not realize this, then you are not the brightest bulb in the shed. A life lesson I recently had in the classroom was a boy who was acting out and no matter what discipline measure I used, he would not change his tune. Only when I started to praise him and give him some attention, did he act more civil and work well with the class. I found a home history for him and he has two younger siblings, for a first grader having two younger siblings and not getting the same amount of attention is a big shock. The way he acts, it is as though he is completely ignored at home and he needs the constant closeness of the teacher as well as the praise. This happened today and the turn-around from staying next to him while he worked on his bat project was unbelievable. He constantly stated as a fact that, “He was not smart enough” and “he had no idea how to do this”. Being constantly reassured that he was smart, and could do anything, gave him the confidence to finish his work instead of giving up.

    As a teacher it is important for me to learn various ways of dealing with students. Whether they need more attention, more structure or food, there is a lot to learn about any given situation to become a better teacher and person.


    Posted by Paige McComas | October 13, 2015, 2:54 am
    • Paige,
      What a loving and caring teacher you are! I got goose bumps when I read your story as it reminded me of my time teaching first grade. I love that you are making an extra effort to make this little guy feel special. I also think it is amazing that you TOOK the time to get the background on this boy to see WHY he was responding this way.


      Posted by Dr. Dickenson | October 13, 2015, 6:17 pm
  7. The statement about being a life long learner is true not only in regards to the field of teaching, but also life in general. When it comes to teachers, life long learning means knowing how to reach a broad range of students from different generations and being able to adapt lesson plans to fit those students needs. Ever-changing technology has made it difficult for veteran teachers who may be “stuck in their ways”, which in turn makes it harder to connect with newer generations of students.

    A personal story and life lesson I vividly remember came not long ago while coaching at the pool I work at. During this particular practice I kept hearing an annoying soft beeping sound each time one of my swimmers would swim near me. I was so confused as to what it was, and kept thinking it might be a watch, however it wouldn’t stop. When I finally pinpointed the culprit and asked what she was using. I was told it was a new type of training device called a tempo trainer. This waterproof pedometer sized device has changed the way individuals train for competition due to the fact that it can sense the speed of the body and let a swimmer know by sound how fast the arms and body should be moving. I immediately jumped on board using this device, and was shocked when I spoke about it with one of the more seasoned coaches at the club that I work with. This particular coach, with Olympic credentials and many years of experience, has at times received a bad wrap from coworkers and parents for not being willing to adapt to some of the modern changes of the sport. When she told me she had been using this device for quite sometime and that it was very helpful, I was extremely surprised. Even more shocking was the fact that she was an early adopter of the device. This particular experience showed me that learning truly never does stop, and that no matter your age; technology does not have to be a foreign concept. Although this particular coach is “stuck in her ways” in many other aspects of the job, she found value in this piece of technology and embraced it.


    Posted by Brett Frazier | October 13, 2015, 7:13 am
    • Hey Brett
      That is a very cool story. I have heard of coaches in this generation for all sports that did not want to change their ways of teaching or disciplining. The generation of kids today react totally differently and have almost forced the hand of some old coaches and teachers to have to change, because they have no choice.


      Posted by Brian Aguailar | October 16, 2015, 5:28 pm
  8. I have recently subbed a few special ed classes. At one time when I first started subbing and just wanted to be in the classroom, I would almost exclusively work special ed classes. So I originally was leaning towards getting my credential in special ed. Sadly as time passed, I was convinced by other special ed teachers that I worked with that I should explore other subjects/options. They all told me that even though they felt I had all the tools to be a great special ed teacher, all the stuff that comes with the job can be draining. As I did research I found out that teachers in special education quit the profession at a substantially higher rate than their counterparts, so I decided on Social Science instead. Anyways, working in these special ed classes of late reminded me of just how much these students go through on a daily basis. Especially the ones that have severe mental or physical impairments Some of the sweetest students I have ever known were in those special ed classes and my heart always goes out to them. The life lesson I learned being in all of these classes over the years is to always appreciate what I do have.

    I have been dealing with a family crisis lately and god willing everything will work itself out. Either way all I can do is teach myself and teach my students that we should appreciate the things we do have, and not worry about the things we can’t change. Always concerning ourselves with improving the things that we have the power to change,


    Posted by Mark Maselli | October 13, 2015, 6:29 pm
  9. Nothing thrives if it cannot evolve. This is true, not just in technology, as my classmate Bill Henry pointed out, but also in business, personal relationships, and in learning. The most successful entities among us are those that can synthesize new information and adapt accordingly.

    For a teacher, this means that we need to keep abreast of new developments in psychology, sociology, learning theory, technology, and our core subjects. It’s a daunting task that requires us to have a fundamental and somewhat insatiable curiosity, and a keen mind for policy and current events. It is a love of learning and of our craft that will propel us into ongoing relevancy, even after 10-20 years of teaching.

    Over the years, as a parent and a teacher candidate, I have witnessed an evolution in teaching, from the old “teacher as expert” way that I was taught, to today’s more dynamic and accommodating way. I cannot imagine anything more boring than teaching the same lessons every year with the same outcomes. (I know many teachers who do this, because it’s easy). After several years, you might be more efficient, but without continuous review and modification, you are probably missing opportunities to adapt in ways that reflect current demographics, using new and proven methods.


    Posted by Karey Stoltz | October 14, 2015, 4:26 pm
  10. This past week, I had an opportunity to substitute in a mild/moderate high school math class. Leading up to the assignment, I was a little worried because I would not consider myself a “math whiz” or anything close to it. I spent a lot of time preparing and working with the teacher (who I was to sub for) in designed and prepping the lessons for the week, but I was definitely still a little nervous, ok, a lot a bit nervous. To make a long story short, despite the nerves, I ended up thoroughly enjoying myself and the students I taught; it created one of those “life lessons” that every teacher should appreciate and reflect on.

    What I learned about myself as a teacher and a “lifelong learner” is that I like to teach students, not a particular subject. I once read that teachers should “first care about the students, and then they will care about the subject.” This all too clear that I just love working with those students in that math class. Sure, I love social studies and am excited to teach social studies in the future, but I am more excited to work with students on an everyday basis and be that role model that each student deserves.

    Matt Silvernale


    Posted by Matt Silvernale | October 14, 2015, 9:16 pm
  11. I had a really hard lesson this week, even when we stretch ourselves, not every student’s parents will understand (or appreciate) the fact that we are going above and beyond for their student. As a lifelong learner, not only do I need to keep updating my techniques and skills, but I also need to keep fine tuning my communication with the parent(s)/guardian(s).
    While I might feel that I have great skills in being socially and emotionally connected to both my students and their family members, it is always good to have self-reflection when there are those “tough” conversations (either in person or via email) that take place. During this week I have learned that while I might feel I have gone above and beyond, that might not always be enough for a specific situation. I am really re-evaluating how my connection with the parent(s)/ guardian(s) is handled and perceived.


    Posted by Emily Duncan | October 15, 2015, 2:25 am
  12. Dr. Dickenson,

    Thank you for your post – I was impacted by the point you made about a multitasking teacher, but I still can’t help but feel that out of courtesy and respect that you have to model what you expect. Plus, I don’t really think that many people can efficiently multitask, but I will work on being more considerate of people’s capabilities and skills.

    Though I have yet to teach in my own classroom, I did learn a lesson while doing a practice teaching session with friends and family who played the roles of my students. The most common piece of feedback I received was regarding my pace; I moved too fast for them to work on the graphic organizer and listen to the lecture easily and comfortably. Overall, I think this can be attributed to my misconception that people learn similarly, moreover that they learn the same way and at the same pace that I do. Though I personally learned, especially in college, with a lecture then discussion format, I realize now that such a format may not be effective, especially when used repeatedly. Coming to think of it, I probably would have been much more successful in my academics if, other than working harder, if the instructors made an effort to diversify their teaching techniques. Therefore, I’ve learned that I must be more aware of my pace, expectations, and students’ abilities and to vary my lesson plans with different activities. I should also praise consistent hard work and participation, and give students the opportunity to express any concerns and needs.


    Posted by Toni Reyes | October 15, 2015, 4:42 am
  13. One life lesson that has recently re-asserted itself to me, in a classroom setting or otherwise, is that one must be adaptable. Speaking specifically in a school setting, this need for adaptability is important not only for the students, but for the teacher as well. The days of reading material straight out of a textbook to your class as the sole source of instruction are, by and large, over. As teachers, our lesson plans, and indeed our very approach to teaching itslef, need to be adaptable to meet the needs of today’s diverse student body. As a sometime substitute teacher, I quickly found myself “hitting the ground running” in several classrooms with minimal instruction. Had I gone in with a regimented view of instruction, things would have gone awry quickly.


    Posted by Greg Kirtley | October 15, 2015, 7:44 pm
  14. As a life long learner I will always be improving my skills and techniques to become the best teacher and educator possible. Being a successful educator in the 21 century takes more than understanding and teaching the material, but takes understanding the child and student to be able to fully reach their learning potential. One life lesson that I recently encountered happened while subbing for a middle school PE class. They were in the frisbee or disc throwing unit of their program, so they could progress to play disc golf. This is a simple movement that almost every student should perform easily. During the activity I saw a clear difference in the students who were motivated to learn a improve their skills by practice and the students who lacked motivation and interest in the activity. The students who were participating with motivation to learn were asking questions and were easily receiving feedback while showing improvement. I went over to the other group who lacked interest and started a conversation with them trying find out their thoughts. After talking about some unrelated topics to disc golf, I asked them to reach a goal of throwing a disc with a partner at least 100 feet. The rest of class they participated and some fond interest and fun in reaching the goal that I set for them. I found out that teaching the material is important, but teaching the different types of kids is just as important to their learning and your teaching.


    Posted by Brian Aguailar | October 16, 2015, 5:50 pm
  15. I can remember back to Government/Econ my senior year in high school and thinking what the point of it all was. My teacher gave us the entire class period, everyday, to read out of certain pages in the textbook. When test time rolled around the test given to us was a copy of sections of the textbook with various words “whited out”. Maybe if we had a word bank we would could have guessed what sounded correct, but instead we all failed. Regardless of the results, the tests continued this way for the entire school year. The only reason we all passed was the endless extra credit assignments that basically covered up the real problem of nothing being taught and nothing being learned, not to mention this particular teacher was probably 5 years over due on retirement. I guess where I am going with this is regardless of our age as a teacher or if we agree with the changes happening in education we are always responsible for our student’s success.


    Posted by Alynn Peckham | October 16, 2015, 7:38 pm
  16. As I read on all the great blog entries this week I found myself reflecting on personal examples that aligned with many of the examples discussed. I realized this was because the first year teaching your own class, everyday seems to present a new life lesson that I need to adapt to in order to be successful. Armed with what I felt was substantial knowledge and experience I quickly learned that each day would present itself with a new experience and opportunity for me to learn. Looking back I hadn’t realize that there are so many variables, parents, students, faculty, fire drills, weather changes, technology failure to name a few, that would impact a simple lesson that I thought I could teach without waver. In the diverse classrooms of today, it is vital that we approach each day armed with the tools we know for success, but with the willingness to adapt to the opportunities of daily classroom life. I have also learned to make use of the resources around me to aid with these ever evolving lessons. Asking for advice or help from peers or administration, using the internet and other vital resources has been an essential life lesson, helping me to realize I don’t have to do all on my own.


    Posted by Tamie Riley | October 17, 2015, 1:30 pm
    • HI Tamie,
      Your post reminded me of the first time I heard “you don’t have to reinvent the wheel” and yes knowing what resources are available certainly gives you the opportunity and access to grow and continue learning. I would also add the same is true for our students and when we encounter kids who don’t want to grow we have to model our own professional growth, provide a variety of resources for them to select what works best and help them monitor their progress.
      Dr D.


      Posted by Dr. Dickenson | October 17, 2015, 6:29 pm
  17. I think as teachers, and individuals, it is important to seek out learning all the time. I love having those “a ha” moments, especially in the classroom. I was recently subbing in a kindergarten class. Although I prefer the upper elementary grades, I’m learning to change my style a bit when working with the youngsters. There is a special place reserved in heaven for these teachers! The teacher left me a lesson in which the children were to write about a specific event, in one sentence, and draw a picture. I handed out papers to all of the 24 students. (I have already been in this class a handful of times this year, so already know most of the students) Many of them were having difficulty, as some are still learning to write the letters, and some don’t know the sounds. Looking around the class, I could see that only about 5 of the children were on task. This wasn’t going to work. I collected the papers, and instead, sat on the carpet. We took out individual chalkboards and practiced writing a few letters. Then, we moved into a circle, and we took turns sharing a fun experience that we each had over the weekend. This worked much better. All 24 of the children were engaged in the activity.
    I learned that sometimes what you have planned for the day doesn’t always happen, as hard as you try. You have to learn to adapt and be aware of what students need to best develop and gain confidence. Sitting at the tables with a blank paper would not have benefitted these children, and I couldn’t spend time helping each of them individually, as there just wasn’t time. This alternate activity brought smiles and laughter to these children, which is many times what these little ones need.


    Posted by Kristine Clevenger | October 17, 2015, 4:12 pm
  18. Being a life long learner is something that many people consider themselves to be but few actually practice it. Like you mentioned it requires a person to be humble and to critically reflect on how your students respond to a task. This is something that I hope that I can practice but know it will require me to put a lot of time and effort into it. I will need to make sure to remind myself that I need to reflect critically on what I am doing and if it is being productive or not. When the school year is in full swing and things are busy that is when I will really need to remember to reflect because as time goes on I think we get more and more comfortable and get into a routine. Routine is good but we need to make sure it is effective and the students are learning otherwise we need to switch it up.

    Recently I had an incident with one of my students. After I talked to my supervisor and she talked to his mom. Then I had a conversation with him and we worked things out and I told him that he needs to be responsible for his actions. I realized that talking to my supervisor is very valuable because she can help. I need to ask for help when there are situations that I don’t know how to deal with. Also talking to a student’s parents is vital because more often then not they will support you and help you work with their child. I learned that communication is key and it is important to get help when needed. I know there are going to be many more situations in my career where I will need to ask for help.


    Posted by mekalasheedy | October 17, 2015, 5:16 pm
  19. I have a binder where I print out my lesson plan and then a blank lesson plan sheet which contains my suggestions to myself for the next time I do that activity or lesson. I hope this binder will help me to be a life long learner, it is already covered with post-it’s and arrows and notes about how to improve activities!

    In regards to a life long learning lesson I am currently learning, my department head is always telling me that teaching is a marathon, not a sprint. She also has a “motto” written on her board “just do a little bit better than yesterday” The further I get into teaching I realize how key this motto is going to become. Everyday has it’s own unique challenges and sometimes (okay all the time) I go home feeling worn down, it is so easy to put too much pressure on myself and start feeling defeated. Occasionally I will remember the motto and feel better; as long as I just do a little bit better than I did yesterday, I will get better eventually and my students will have a better experience!

    “Doing a little better than yesterday” can mean so many things. Maybe one day my expectations for my students for their assignment were not made clear enough. As long as I try to be a little clearer next time, my students will not end up with a teacher who is stuck in a rut of giving bad directions!

    My department head has this motto written on her wall and I think I will write it on my wall too so that I remember it more often!


    Posted by Chelsea Geber | October 17, 2015, 10:12 pm
  20. Dr D,

    First of all, thank you for the link on the Sean Combs/NY Marathon lesson plan. I will be running the Boston Marathon in the spring and will take the role of PDiddy. This is an great lesson on linear equations and slope of the line. BTW, yes this lesson belongs in both Geo and Algebra!!!

    I believe it was Paige that stated everyone is a life-long learner. I couldn’t agree more. To paraphrase Animal Farm, some perhaps more than others. I think I have a case of 5 year olditis…the “buy why” thing. I tend to be curious and am constantly looking things up. Google, Bing and Wiki are my friends. Because as we all know, if it’s on the internet it has to be true.

    This week I did my first direct instruction switching between the digital textbook on the projector and the document camera demonstrating Algebra Tiles. As I went to the whiteboard to trace one of the tiles I wrote in green directly onto the screen. Oops, I missed the step of retracting the screen. Of course the glass was giggling. I turned and looked at them and said, “Please don’t bust me and turn me into Ms. Hartman’ (Principal). We all had a good laugh and then the class proceeded quite well after that. It was the best behavior I had seen in the two weeks since I arrived. My lesson learned…a bit of humility and humor made me appear human to the students. They seemed to have some sympathy for my blunder. Maybe I should draw on the screen more often?



    Posted by Rich Read | October 18, 2015, 2:41 am
    • HA love the story you share yes humor and humility go a long way. It certainly breaks the ice as well. I think being honest and candid can also help build those relationships. Math is such a great subject where you can make mistakes and they are wonderful opportunities to learn. If we do everything perfectly all the time than what are we teaching our kids about learning, growing and learning from our mistakes. Try a few problems that are solved incorrectly and see what your students come up with. It can empower them and build their efficacy towards math as well.
      Dr D


      Posted by Dr. Dickenson | October 24, 2015, 3:43 pm
  21. I believe being a lifelong learner is really all about willingness. If we are willing to reach out for help, even when we don’t really think we need it; if we are willing to listen to students when they complain about what is going on in their lives; and if we continue to be actively searching for new tools and approaches and different solutions for problems that will undoubtedly arise, then we will have become lifelong learners. Someone earlier said that everyone is a lifelong learner, and I have to disagree slightly. While I believe everyone is capable of being a lifetime learner, I think it is only those that are willing to put in the work who will succeed.


    Posted by Abe Goldman | October 19, 2015, 3:58 am
  22. I agree completely that lifelong learning begins with humility. Without the ability to look at failure and flaw, there will be no growth. Personally, I have found that asking other professionals for observations have been a really effective way in improving lesson plans. As our course discussed in the first case study, asking other professionals for help is a critical component to effective classroom management and discipline. A recent example of asking for observations occurred today while I was subbing PE at a local junior high school. The professional disposition survey we took this week got me thinking about ways to improve my verbal communication with both colleagues and students. I asked a teacher at the school site if he was willing to observe me teach a lesson on track and field during his preparatory period. The amount of useful information and tips I received were abundant, and the great part was the support I received from this teacher. He was genuinely happy to be a part of my refinement as an educator. Obviously, this process can be done individually and should be done frequently. Communicating with professionals on how they make use of technology in their classrooms can help out “life-long” learning.


    Posted by Graeme Jones | October 20, 2015, 7:34 am
  23. This blog post is very insightful. I have heard the term “Life-Long Learner” tossed around quite a bit throughout my life. I completely agree with Professor Dickenson that is it crucial to self-reflect. We can act on impulses or emotions many times throughout the day. Did we effectively communicate our points? Did we think before we acted? When we self-reflect, we often find the answers to those questions. From there, we can make better decisions about what it means to be a teacher.

    I am not a teacher yet, but I have been volunteering in classrooms. I have noticed that it is easy to give certain children more attention than others. I was recently in a middle school class and 2 girls and 1 boy were asking me for help during group work. They were clearly good students and were interested in making “friends” with me. They took my attention away from other students who may have benefited from my help. I realized later that in the professional world, there shouldn’t be favorites. I already knew this fact, but I saw it play out in my own life. I hope to learn from that and move on from students who I have already helped.


    Posted by ame1717 | October 20, 2015, 7:04 pm
  24. Thank you Dr. Dickenson for sharing your thoughts on this subject. The point made that stands out the most to me is when you notice students being disinterested or aloof. It is important to self reflect and decide what may be the underlying issue. There needs to be a way to engage students to really remove the option or thought of multitasking and checking e-mail or Facebook messages. I appreciate Cole’s story very much to take time to identify on a deeper level what could be the issue when a child acts out. Building trust with students and showing that you care is an important tool for any teacher.

    I have recently had an experience when I was placed at a elementary campus in San Jose with two students who were getting into fights after the bell would ring. When I first arrived on campus and I noticed it, I set out time after the bell rang for each of them to meet with me separately and discuss what they did at lunch as well as assist me in cleaning up the lunch yard of soccer goals, hula hoops, etc. This gave me the opportunity to find what may be the problem and the issues that are causing this behavior, a way to make them feel useful and important, a way to show them I care, and even a way to keep them away from each other during the time period they would generally cause trouble. Having positive interactions like this with students and giving them a sort of ‘job’ can really boost their confidence and help build trust.


    Posted by Nicholas Field | October 23, 2015, 2:29 am

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