Monday, September 21, 2015

Learn More, Become More

"As long as I live I am under construction" (Ayers 121). I thought this a most appropriate way to end the novel - it was also my absolute favorite line, the one I deemed most truthful. Of course we are always under construction - what would we be living for if not to become better. At different times in our lives, this could mean so many different things, but it will always remain true: we are never "done" or "complete." As a teacher, I think it is crucial for our students to see and observe the same - that the adults in their classrooms are like those Ayers describes in Chapter 5 - they're not perfect, don't know everything, and are still longing to learn.

It is part of our job to remind students, and to allow them to learn, that their learning experience is what is the most important part of being in our classrooms. So often, I imagine classrooms where students are trapped, listening to a stream of noise as a teacher lectures endlessly...who is growing from this experience? Neither the teacher nor the students are gaining anything truly valuable, and "students need to know that their presence in the classroom is both valued and valuable" (Ayers 81). This is why I strive to offer a vastly different experience in my classroom. Simply by paying more attention to how my students learn best will result in more productive class time, and a more accurate portrayal of students comfort zones. It is not my job to make sure they stay there, but rather, push them outside of their comfort zones with the support and resources they need.

Carol Dweck emphasizes the power of the word "yet"....when used as in "not yet"....and how influential those words are when discussing possibility and improvement. How can we get more teachers on board with this mindset, though, instead of taking the "easy route" of allowing students to stay where they are comfortable?

This transitions into Nakkula and Toshalis's view that adolescence itself is something that is constructed. "When adolescents implicitly ask what kind of person they should be, who their friends ought to be, in what or whom they should they should place trust, or what kind of world they should make, the answers we construe and imagine with them help co-construct who they become and the way they approach the world, even if those answers are patently rejected." (Nakkula & Toshalis 3) I read this and thought of our first class this semester, and the words of Frank Smith, when we discussed that students are always learning something, whether it is explicitly taught or not. They are always learning and always becoming...more. That is all we can ask of them, because that is all that we are able to do on our end as well. Teachers and students alike need to learn more in order to become more. And we will always be under construction.


  1. Tina, I totally agree-- "As long as I live I am under construction"....And we will always be under construction. I also think this is a powerful and appropriate way to end this novel. Talking about life-long learning-- I used to think about life-long learning and the way teachers are always changing and finding new ways to integrate new ideas into the classroom. I know life long learning is a consistent and motivational term used for professional practitioners to perfect their craft. Now, just like yourself, I feel the "under construction" component is a valuable one. For one, I feel that I constantly "pave" a new road for myself as I find a learning strategy that works for a particular student that I inherit. Or, to find a new teaching strategy, literacy/math strategy to showcase in my lesson plans.

    "As long as I live I am under construction" will always be in the back of my mind. It is real and so truthful in my eyes.

  2. Tina, I also love that line! "Life-long learner"/"Life-long learning" is so overused and just another educational buzzword. A filler that everyone has to nod their heads to. But "under construction" is much more complex and meaningful. We have to admit that being constantly "under construction" can be frustrating - those endless projects that block off campus roads, those buildings that never seem done, the progress that can seem so slow that you wonder if anything has even changed. And recognizing that your identity as a teacher, as a learner, as a person, is always under construction can be frustrating too. There is always more to learn, more to try, more to reflect on. But it is that process and that thrill that keeps me coming back. How do we help our students be okay with "yet"? With the mess that is "construction"?

  3. Obviously, I love the "not yet" video. My whole program is based on "not yet" and I had not seen this previously...thanks for sharing.
    Between Ayers and Nakkula, there is a discussion about the concrete learning of children vs the construction that occurs in adolescence. It seems that just as our students most need us to inspire them to be asking the most questions, many classrooms spend far too much time providing convenient and traditional answers. I think we need to continue to be the change we want to see in the world, and try to inspire others to do the same, and watch as the movement grows.

  4. Yes, I agree completely Tina...the phrase "under construction" certainly applies to everyone all of the time. It's kind of a cool metaphor when you think about what the phrase actually means. I think "under" implies that we are working from the bottom up and "construction" means we are making something as we go. So, to me, I'm thinking that the support and experience piece is a big part of the building. The foundation of our experiences and learning gives us a strong base from which we can expand and make new meaning.