Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Will You Speak Your Truth in 2009?

Stories connect people. Not facts, not stats, not figures, not money. Stories. ... The cardinal rule of posting on a blog is to be brief and to the point. Well, I'm still working on that. :) When I start writing from my heart, my thoughts tend to go in many directions. This is part of my truth :) If something strikes a chord in you and you think you'd like to comment, please do. Cheers to a truthful new year 2009! Oh ... see weblink at the end of this posting for how to share your stories online.

I ask myself ... What is my truth? What is my mission?
Why do I make the decisions I make? Do my decisions add value to my life? To the lives of those around me? What is my moment by moment priority? Big picture mission or vision? Is what I'm doing today, have value in some small way? Am I living for myself or for the common good of all? Am I living to get or to give? What do I need to communicate to the world so they understand how I operate? It is all of our jobs to teach other how we want, or need, to be treated. Are we to expect others to read our minds? If we want peace and truth, the answer would be ... a no.

Can we let people just be who they are?
Am I offended by others when I should just instead allow them to have their own reality, letting them be who they are around me? We can't change others, right? When do I step in and communicate, to resolve difference/conflict, to bring peace and perhaps more understanding; when do I step back and let be ... just BE? These are questions that I ponder these last few days of 2008 ... and before getting back into the swing of teaching and graduate work and the basic demands of life.

Speak the truth with grace and consideration?
Challenge yourself to ponder these questions ... to begin a value-added 2009! And remember to aim to also speak the truth with grace, concern, and consideration for others (easier said than done, I know, but we must try to bring more peace into our worlds. It's the smallest, tiniest gestures of consideration that matter.) ...

As you speak your truth, remember too that ...

Make a genuine connection by being authentic.

Our stories, our personal stories, are what will bring us back to the core of who we are ... or who we were. Get in touch with your stories, your core, why you do what you do ... because this truly leads to more genuine connections with people. Our stories, in fact, bring out the authenticity in others. Be YOU, share the true YOU, so others have a greater chance to be the true THEY - BE THEMSELVES!

Everyone has a story to tell, whether it is from their early years or just yesterday or last year or 8 years ago. Ask someone about their story and you'll have a friend for life. Ask them what in their past made them who they are today, having the kind of significance that changed the direction of their life or made an impact in some way. Show them compassion and understanding, and they will melt from the kindness and attention your give them in their busy, sometimes unacknowledged, personal world. And then in return, share snippets of your stories that made you who you are today. Snippets are good. Sometime that's all we have time or energy for! Be tuned in to people.

The love for learning that never dies.
My story is too long for this post ... but on the short side, I was a graphic designer at Children's Hospital, San Diego, for years and loved it!!! ... and now I'm a teacher of 4th grade working on my instructional technology masters of education degree and loving it too. I must say I like the research, study, learning and collaboration more than anything else right now. I love acquiring new information. Good thing, being in the digital world we live in.

Sift out what is useful ... all along keeping in mind my truth ... and leave the rest for everyone else. I need to speak my truth, live a life of integrity and honesty, tell my personal story when it might come in handy for someone else. I need to jump on, or find, my own bandwagon which changes from year to year - be creative, original (if possible; someone has probably already done what I was gonna do! :), simplify, inspire! But not worry if someone else took my idea or gets the credit (which has happened before). Maybe they needed the credit more than I did? There's a thought. :)

See what you can notice and surprise someone in a small way.
We are all hungry, after all, to be noticed, even if we don't admit it. One more question to ask ourselves, and then I'll stop :) Can we accomplish things in the world and be okay without being noticed or acknowledged? Good question to think about. That's a post for the future. In the meantime, see what you can notice, and surprise people in small ways, but know that people like to be noticed in different ways. You know. Some like public notice, some quiet notice. Get tuned in if you can.

I am a seed planter.
In my daily life, I speak and work with people from all walks, all cultures, and we solve problems together ... at school and at work. We listen to each other's stories, collaborate, adding richness to the process of learning. I must say ... teaching is much more than I bargained for back in 1998, harder and much more involved than I ever thought, but I'm grateful for the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of my students. I hope I am planting seeds that will blossom this year ... or in later years, that's okay. I'm a seed planter.

You are a seed planter!
We are not planting seeds in isolation, but together. What I learn from you, I pass onto others, and so on. That's why we need to speak our truth; otherwise we are passing on something less than optimal to the people around us ... we are teaching others to be false. The challenge is to pass on ... THE TRUTH ... so that they will pass on the truth. :)

What is your truth today? Your story?

Each day is just a small step of the journey that has adventures, questions, challenges, successes, mysteries, and nuggets of truth! What's your story? What's your truth!? I stumbled upon this great website today through my Twitter social network called For A Better Life ... Got to weblink: http://www.forbetterlife.org/pass-it-on/tell-your-story to share your story, long or short, or to find inspiration from others!

My Sources

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Member of:

Reflections from a first time presenter!

L-R: Asst to Malena, Manisha Javeri, Malena Ruth, Lori Rozelle
E-Learn 2008 Las Vegas

A week to remember in Las Vegas. I took the first "shift" of the presentations with Dr. Javeri and master's graduate John ....while about 9 more master's students took the 2nd "shift" of the week to round out the presentations with a roundtable. Dr. Chen and Dr. Samreau, also in attendance, did their fair share of presenting throughout the week with colleagues and master's students. So Cal State University Los Angeles was well represented at E-Learn Conference 2008. Hurray for CSULA and CCOE!!!

This was my first conference and first time speaking; you'd think it would be good to start small and local, but I started with one of the largest international conferences in the field of instructional technology and
e-learning thanks to Dr. Javeri. :) "Fascinating" is the word that comes to mind when describing the people in attendance. Every accent known to man could be heard; it was unusual not to have an accent. Every color of skin. There was absolutely no way that one would feel out of place with the mix of people in attendance.

The first morning I met Miss Turkey, later Miss Germany and Ms. Finland. Even later, Mrs. Australia who worked at a women's college in Dubai, Saudi Arabia. There were Mr. and Miss Bahamas, Ms. Japan, Ms. Korea, and Mr. China, and Mr. UK in the elevator, not to forget Mr. Italy. I was surrounded by a sea of people all who were always friendly and open to communicate.

Just with one meeting, we would act like we knew each other every time we passed one another to and from presentations. In one quick passing, I introduced Miss Germany to Ms. Finland and they began their own conversation. I've never seen people talk so freely and so easily.

I enjoyed the keynote speakers the most ... as they each gave the big picture of life as it is currently in the education and technology world. It was great to be able to connect their language, their terms, to things I've learned in grad classes and have many things making sense to me. Conference were mixed; some I understood and could jump on board while others were complex, out of my league, or simply lacked engagement.

For a first timer, I listened for content AND watched for presentation style to see what I might emulate in the future. One duo did a stand up comedy routine that at first was fun and fresh. Less is more ... I need to remember this too.

One speaker I was especially impressed with in style and content was an Australian woman who is a professor of business at a woman's college in Dubai. Ms. Australia told us about the Bizarre she organized each year for year 1 and 2 college undergrads that put them in a simulated business setting as they each become entrepreneurs buying and selling real products they create. Talk about hands on! I wanted to attend these classes so I could be better prepared to finish the design of our microcredit interventions for women in Maputo. All schools are segregated by gender in Dubai.

Tuesday morning, 10 a.m., was my time to speak at the conference. Overall, I would say my experience was a success! Malena Ruth, African Millinneum Foundation, and her assistant were present and Dr. J was right up front for support; John was also present (thanks for coming, John!). I had 20 minutes before Miss Germany's presentation ... and did I cover a lot in that time period! My presentation was about HPT and the interventions EDIT 594 designed for the children who have been orphaned by HIV/AIDS, and the activists and caregivers. I had been working for hours on this presentation the days before, and then Dr. Javeri and I did some last minute tweaks to the presentation the night before, so I was ready to go.

Also the night before I had noticed that I didn't get the pants packed I planned on wearing, but hey, it was Las Vegas! I saw every type of dress. Wearing an acceptable alternative, I managed to spilled a huge amount of orange juice on my blouse, don't ask how. I guess it was my nerves. You couldn't miss the spot "river" it from far away. I'm thinking, okay, I can deal with this, no problem. It was not going my way, but I wasn't going to let these little blunders stop my enthusiasm. Miss Turkey and I got a laugh out of this. Working on her Ph.D. Miss Turkey was to present 3 papers and was worried about her English. I tried to calm her fears on that. She became a fast friend as we could understand one another.

The thing I loved about this conference was meeting all of the people from around the world and having conversations with them. The world got much smaller for me in 3 days at this Las Vegas Riviera Hotel and Convention Center. My perspective changed from being out of touch with the world at large to feeling like I was part of a common goal, a common language in education and technology.

I even started reading the published papers in the book that AACE published and gave out Wed on the airplane ride home later Wed night. Being there gave me a new appreciation for what we're learning in our Instructional Technology courses at Cal State ... and a hunger to learn more.

I returned to my 4th grade classroom Thursday morning feeling a bit like what I came from was surreal, not ready to re-enter what seemed to be my smaller world in Arcadia. Felt a little sad to be back, but by Friday, I was back in the swing. Told my students about my week and that it was a new accomplishment for me and my students spontaneously started clapping and then one came up and gave me a big hug and then another followed and before I knew it all the students were surrounding me in one big hug. It was absolutely priceless. Talk about the innocent wonder of children and a lack of reservation to show what they authentically feel in any given one moment. Wow.

I'll always remember my first presentation about our interventions to help the children orphaned by HIV/AIDS in Africa and be ever so grateful to Dr. Javeri for encouraging me to step out of my comfort zone. I'd say that discomfort is a lot less now and my horizons are broadening ... and that this is a very good thing! :) Onto the next presentation!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

To live ...

To live is so startling it leaves little time for anything else.
- Emily Dickinson

Be glad of life because it gives you the chance to love and to work and to play and to look up at the stars.
- Henry Van Dyke

What, in life, makes you happy?

Life is ...

Life is a long lesson in humility.
- James M. Barrie

Thursday, July 17, 2008

This is a test, this is only a test!

The question is ... to blog or not to blog ... or .... to wiki or not to wiki. That is the question worthy of pondering. I suppose as time goes on, and I experience and practice with both, the answer will come to tell me what is best for what, and what is best for when, and what is best for where.

Let test this ... Okay, here is a blog I want to follow. Butterfly Hill Farms. Highlight and link. Let's try. Whala! It works. No prob. I don't need to place this on the sidelines I see.

For my class project I'll either use a blog or wiki as an easy access to webpages I want to highlight in my presentation ... Imagine, not using a Powerpoint! Now there's a new thought! :) Use a web 2.0 tool? Perhaps this will become the norm!

By the way ... I figured out why my Internet Explorer didn't have the "Tag" icon that everyone in class had last night for their Del.icio.us download. It was because when I tried to install the buttons (last week), I got an error message. Error 2738 to be exact. So I got on my Firefox browzer and was able download the buttons for Del.icio.us successfully. Yey! But now I've sent a message to Del.icio.us tech support asking how to bypass or fix this error problem. I'm awaiting their answer.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

A Vision of K-12 Students Today

A vision of the younger students who
desperately need us to engage them in learning! How will we do this? And how can we incorporate technology in these efforts? Watch both videos: one for the K-12 learner and the other for the college learner (worth your time to watch both videos: K-12 and college age version; also on teachertube.com!)

A Vision of College Students Today

What are we going to do as educators to meet the needs of today's students? It begins with KNOWING your students, knowing their interests, their learning styles, and their communication style. After that, educators need to check themselves and ask themselves if they are truly connecting with their students, or are they continuing to do what they always have done from what they learned 10 years ago. If they dare to "check in" with their students and get the true picture, they will know that something in their approach to teaching needs to change. Watch this video by Michael Wesch, professor of Cultural Anthroplogy at Kansas State University, to get a glimpse of what's going on in student's minds in the classroom. And then, if you're a teacher, begin studying what the Web 2.0, the read/write web, has to offer you AND your students. It's a smorgasboard of active engagement just waiting for you! And remember that ... being human is all about LEARNING ... which is all about creating meaningful connections -- and significance.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Value of Community and Collaboration

What effects me directly, effects others around me indirectly. All of us are equal and connected. The whole is great than the sum of it's parts. Have you heard these statements before? The clip below includes some quotes by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. We are all part of one continuous thread. How would your world change if you saw the whole planet as part of your community? What would you do differently? Together ... we can make the world a better place for everyone.

A Tale of Power and Vision

A short film on the response to change. There are the innovators, the early adopters all the way to the laggards (pessismists) according to Everett Rogers in his Diffusion of Innovations theory.

The Downtown Duckling Hero

Another Random Act of Kindness
A story from my email with a scary start, but a happy ending, dedicated to my Grandpa Neal who loved his ducks and birds.

Dear Nature Lovers,
Something really amazing happened in Downtown Spokane this week and I had to share the story with you. Some of you may know that my brother, Joel, is a loan officer at Sterling Bank. He works downtown in a second story office building, overlooking busy Riverside Avenue. Several weeks ago he watched a mother duck choose the cement awning outside his window as the uncanny place to build a nest above the sidewalk.

The mallard laid nine eggs in a nest in the corner of the planter that is perched over 10 feet in the air. She dutifully kept the eggs warm for weeks and Monday afternoon all of her nine ducklings hatched.Joel worried all night how the momma duck was going to get those babies safely off their perch in a busy, downtown, urban environment to take to water, which typically happens in the first 48 hours of a duck hatching.

Tuesday morning, Joel came to work and watched the mother duck encourage her babies to the edge of the perch with the intent to show them how to jump off! The mother flew down below and started quacking to her babies above. In his disbelief Joel watched as the first fuzzy newborn toddled to the edge and astonishingly leapt into thin air, crashing onto the cement below. My brother couldn't watch how this might play out. He dashed out of his office and ran down the stairs the sidewalk where the first obedient duckling was stuporing near its mother from the near fatal fall. Joel looked up. The second duckling was getting ready to jump! He quickly dodged under the awning while the mother duck quacked at him and the babies above.

As the second one took the plunge, Joel jumped forward and caught it with his bare hands before it hit the cement. Safe and sound, he set it by the momma and the other stunned sibling, still recovering from its painful leap. One by one the babies continued to jump to join their anxious family below. Each time Joel hid under the awning just to reach out in the nick of time as the duckling made its free fall. The downtown sidewalk came to a standstill. Time after time, Joel was able to catch the remaining 7 and set them by their approving mother.

At this point Joel realized the duck family had only made part of its dangerous journey. They had 2 full blocks to walk across traffic, crosswalks, curbs, and pedestrians to get to the closest open water, the Spokane River.

The onlooking office secretaries then joined in, and hurriedly brought an empty copy paper box to collect the babies. They carefully corralled them, with the mother's approval, and loaded them up into the white cardboard container. Joel held the box low enough for the mom to see her brood. He then slowly navigated through the downtown streets toward the Spokane River, as the mother waddled behind and kept her babies in sight. As they reached the river, the mother took over and passed him, jumping into the river and quacking loudly. At the water's edge, the Sterling Bank office staff then tipped the box and helped shepherd the babies toward the water and to their mother after their adventurous ride.

All nine darling ducklings safely made it into the water and paddled up snugly to momma duck. Joel said the mom swam in circles, looking back toward the beaming bank workers, and proudly quacking as if to say, "See, we did it! Thanks for all the help!"

Thankfully, one of the secretaries had a digital camera and was able to capture most of it (except the actual mid-air catching) in a series of attached photographs. Please join me in celebrating my brother -- The Downtown Duck Hero!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Random Acts ... of Kindness with the Pool Bees

Asking questions is always a good practice in life. One question to ask on a daily basis is ... What can I learn from someone's random act of kindness? Essentially ... What can I learn from watching others ... and how do their selfless acts influence me?

A good teacher will always reflect on his or her practices. Reflecting should be done with such automaticity that it becomes second nature. At least, that's what reflection has become for me. Even a better question to ask might be ... What life lessons can I learn from my own random acts of kindness? and ... How can this become so engrained in my way of behaving that it would be unusual for me to do otherwise?

Often when peacefully floating my time away in my pool ... I have made it my mission to save the bees that accidently find themselves on top of the water struggling to fly free. It's not unusual to save at least 2 or 3 bees a day. I scoop them out, careful not to get stung (hmm, no good deed goes unpunished - Do you believe that?) ... Anyway, there the little fella is on the hot, now wet pavement, frantically rubbing his face and squiggying the water off his body, just as a cat would clean it's face after eating.

I love watching PoolBee work hard to dry himself and within a matter of moments, he is off and flying for a 2nd, maybe 3rd, chance at life. (They all look alike; I may have saved the same bee twice in one day!) I smile and know that I made a difference for that little bee, and I am pleased to know that I've done my job for the day with the "pool bees." It feels good to save a life, even though it's a little bee, you know?

We all need to nurture and care for things in our lives. This is really like drinking water - It's absolutely essential for our own well being. What little, and big, things do you do to nurture the people around you everyday? Is there a lesson to learn from observing all that is around you?

Ding Ding Ding ... And the winner is ...

WETPAINT!... for my final seminar project (see July 5 entry for project details). After researching three wiki options: wikispaces for teachers, pbwiki and now wetpaint ... I had to go with Wetpaint - the absolute simplest for all teachers concerned; no html code required (a huge selling point); not too many options for your average digital immigrant. Wikispace for Teachers: choice #2, but uses html code and I don't want to have to build the code in for all of my team. Keep it simple is still the name of the game ... and then later ... expand to the beyond!!! :)

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Final Seminar Project for EDIT 490

Starting simple is always a good idea for teachers since time is such a valuable and limited commodity day to day. I want to use a Web 2.0 tool that will help my 4th grade teaching team collaborate and share ideas more easily. Also we can share websites, and other resources for various lessons and subjects ... so that we don't need to reinvent the wheel. Wikispaces for Teachers is my choice at this point ... I did look at PBWiki, but free space only goes up to 10 MB which is not much and I don't want to have to pay a monthly rate to increase this storage space; hence the Wikispaces route. I might look at Wetpaint to compare.

Bottomline: the wikispace will be used for teachers to collaborate, share ideas and valuable resources, give feedback and discuss our new intervention in reading program we're using this coming year. I want to design this wiki in such a way as to make it easy to access and be inviting and organized, but mostly USEFUL. Ultimately, the team I collaborate with will need to use an application that is hosted by an existing site online.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Book Review: RSS for Educators

Digital Wise - A Magazine for Digital Immigrants
Digital Wise, a magazine for digital immigrants, is a fictitious magazine that I created for my EDIT 490 book review assignment, June 2008. See graphics version on WebCT discussion post. RSS for Educators: Blogs, Newsfeeds, Podcasts and Wikis in the Classroom, by John G. Hendron, is an well organized account of the author's knowledge, wisdom, and insight into Web 2.0, the new generation of the World Wide Web. This book was published by the International Society of Technology Education (iste.org), 2008. Book can can be found on Amazon.com

Wikis, Podcasts, and Blogs, Oh My!
Lions, Tigers, and Bears? Not here! No Need to Fear the “New Web” by Lori Rozelle, Elementary Teacher / for EDIT 490: Web 2.0 for the Classroom

Digital immigrants, and educators, will no longer be wary of all the latest innovations on the World Wide Web once they read this book. In fact, they’ll want to keep this newfound resource close at hand in order to keep up with the digital natives they teach and influence every day. In the book, RSS for Educators; Blogs, Newsfeeds, Podcasts and Wikis in the Classroom, author John G. Hendron (2008) introduces an immeasurable number of read/write applications and tools associated with what he calls “new web” in a powerful “new era” of technological advances in communication, collaboration, and shared computing (p. 1).

As an educator and instructional technologist, Hendron’s goal is to meet the needs of fellow educators by explaining why and showing how the latest web 2.0 technologies can enhance any classroom in the 21st century (p. xi). Endorsed and published by the International Society for Technology in Education in 2008, Hendron’s book defines and explains the basics of blogs, wikis, newsfeeds, and podcasts in addition to giving the reader a comprehensive listing (Appendix A) of 130 web resources for this new generation of the read/write web users (p. 259).

Hendron does an adequate job of defining each category listed in the title of his book (blogs, newsfeeds, podcasts and wikis); however, his discussions on news aggregates were difficult for a web 2.0 newcomer as myself. My preferred learning style, hands on, however might solve that problem. One weakness worth mentioning is the book’s presentation: Hendron’s application tools graphics illustrations are very small in print and so very difficult to read and follow. It isn’t worth straining the eyes, and since there are likely plenty of other more user-friendly resources on the internet, I would go there for further illustrations of the concepts presented. Other than this slight fault, RSS for Educators serves as a very good resource from which to begin a quest for knowledge of the “new web” technologies.

Because Hendron is not only a teacher, but also an instructional technologist who won the 2006 Virginia State Technology Leadership Award from the VA Dept. of Education -- and knowing that the International Society for Technology in Education (iste.org) published this book in the current year, high credibility can be given to the information presented in this book. An additional strength of the book is Appendix C, which provides a vital resource for educators who want to continue their pursuit in digital fluency and information management.

Appendix C is a list of the National Educational Technology Standards for students and for teachers (Hendron, 2008, p. 285). These standards are essential reminders for why educators must at least begin to understand web 2.0 technologies and its many read/write tools. For students, these standards include: creativity, innovation, communication, collaboration, information fluency, research, critical thinking and problem solving, digital citizenship, and technology operations and concepts.

The question is … How can educators meet these rigorous student standards without educating themselves first? Not overnight is a sure answer. Is it doable though? Hendron thinks so, if we work at it. Actually, our students are digital natives who will learn new web 2.0 technologies with or without our assistance. They are the clicking generation with no fear of technology. I often tell my 4th grade students that they were clicking in the womb! I believe upper grade elementary school is a time for teachers to lay the foundation for future opportunities that Hendron discusses in his book. It’s a time to begin the habit of building a community that communicates, collaborates and builds information together.

Hendron (2008) writes about the importance of parent involvement in a school’s mission. He quotes from A Harvard Family Research Project report (Patrikakou, 2004): “ … a multitude of research findings point to the importance that parent involvement has in all stages of the educational process.” This involvement increases the chances for success with both students and teachers (p. 56).

Middle school and high school teachers will be pleased to know that Hendron includes a whole section in his book on classroom applications, great lesson planning ideas to modify and run with! He does include 4th and 5th grade for a few lessons, however consistent access to a computer lab would be necessary for success in these grades.

When discussing wikis for the classroom, Hendron (2008) says, “students are powerfully motivated by being able to publish their work online for others to see, hear, and use” and then gives a long list of how classrooms can use wikis for project based learning (pp. 178-179).

A later chapter discusses podcasts in the classroom, which can be easily downloaded on personal audio players. Hendron (2008) notes, “One of the great rewards for writers and creators is knowing someone is using, reading, or consuming their work … Imagine how this makes the work done by student more exciting, authentic, and real” (p. 201).

As a digital immigrant myself, I found the chapters most easy to understand were about blogging. It definitely helps that I’ve have actual experience in blogging and so the prior knowledge would aid with assimilating the information. Overall, blogging seems to be the simplest of all applications. Just start writing and then post! Guests of the blog may comments on the postings and a conversation ensues. In order to keep the blog fresh and thus read, it is encouraged to keep the blog current. As some blogging applications are open source (free but must have a web server to run on), others cost money. Hendron (2008) helps us wade through the choices in making educated decisions to suit our needs both personally and professionally (p. 114).

Before using blogs in the classroom, Hendron (2008) advises educators to be clear on set goals and to define the intended lifespan of the blog as well as define exactly who the blog is for, the educator or the student. This will help in making sure blogging is not only meaningful but successful (p. 153).

RSS for Educators is a good starting ground for gaining knowledge of the web 2.0 tools and technologies available today; however, it only begins the journey into this new era of read/write innovations. A second read with a laptop at hand as reference might be helpful to the novice web 2.0 user. RSS for Educators will serve as a quick reference to resources that exist today and is a handy book for your library; however, it is strongly advised that curious learners explore further on their own on the internet, as applications are being developed every day. Digital natives, be on the lookout! The immigrants are coming!

Hendron, J. G. (2008).
RSS for Educators / Blogs, Newsfeeds, Podcasts, and Wikis in the Classroom. Washington, D.C.: International Society for Technology in Education.

Patrikakou, E. N. (2004). Adolescence: Are parents relevant to students’ high school achievement and post-secondary attainment? Cambridge, MA: Harvard Family Research Project, Harvard University.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Persistence Brings Success!

Have you heard the story of how bamboo grows? Watch this calming video and decide for yourself how this might be a metaphor in your life ...

Saturday, June 28, 2008

What really is ... lifelong learning?

Even before I became a formal educator, learning has been a priority in my life. I was always the student who asked an abundance of questions in my undergraduate courses. Fellow accounting students got more than they bargained for with me as a classmate. I have always been the one to ask
the questions others would like to ask, but didn’t. One reason I've always asked questions, is really because I'm curious ... and have always loved to learn.

I was, and still am, the person who wants to learn and grow from all of my life experiences, from people around me, and from the classes I take. I’m sure I was born reflecting on what I learned from living in my mother’s womb for nine months, “Lessons Learned in the Womb," (posted in the future!)

When I worked at Children’s Hospital in San Diego, I taught myself graphics computer programs and took classes from UCSD to fill in the gaps. Prior to that I worked in an east coast women’s college where opportunities for learning were prevalent and the environment stimulated by speakers such as Maya Angelou, one of the many speakers who successfully demonstrated living outside of the box.

Now in my 8th year of teaching elementary students, I know that being an educator is my niche, a natural place in which to inspire others to ask the questions, to satisfy their own curiosities by using the skills and tools that independent learners need for exploration. I expect excellence from my student; "No sleeping on the job allowed!" I often tell them! With that said, I also know that nine and ten year olds will make plenty of mistakes while learning takes place; so perfection is not the name of the game. Trying your best is the game plan, however, whatever that means for that individual; it’s different for every student and really for every teacher as well.

My students and I learn together every single year, and I, the teacher, probably learn more than my students do. I hope to lay a solid foundation for my 4th graders, teaching them more than content, about simply learning daily life skills … and I know that if they don’t soar in my class … they will most likely in future classes with the seeds I’ve aimed to cultivate. That is all any good teacher can hope and want for their students.

I continue to ask the questions and reflect on what will make me a better educator, much less a better person, and what will motivate my students to look beyond themselves as I do for myself. How can we show kindness? How can we learn from one another? How can we learn from our mistakes and not repeat them? How can we make good choices ...

I teach my students that every year of life is simply a series of lessons …of "singing a new song" so to speak ... that life is chapter upon chapter of opportunities of learning and that we, in fact, impact our world one way or another, positive or negative. Life is about embracing changes as they come, accepting the good with the bad, knowing that there will be hard times and good times that may actually make us more understanding and empathetic people, that there are things we can control and most other things that we cannot ...

Yes, learning absolutely comes from books, technology, our studies in school, all of these places, but even more importantly from our relationships which are meant to give us a richer, more meaningful life of accumulated wisdom ... more than any book could ever give. In my classroom, we GROW our ideas together into layers of big ideas and thought.

When we use our hearts and minds to reflect ... and then make it a goal to learn from others, we open ourselves up to a greater capacities to love and impart the grace we all so desperately need from one another.

I’m not where I want to be, so that must mean there’s more to learn. Any person who feels they can’t be open and learn from those around them, have, in a sense, died, for life is constantly changing and new around us. How can we not want to be open to what is alive and changing around us? Sameness causes us to go within and atrophy, while diversity has the ever potential effect of luminous and beautiful blossoms.

The only constant that human beings have in life … is that we all have a myriad of opportunities on a changing canvas in which to learn from throughout our lifetime! The questions is ... How will we interact with this canvas to ensure that learning takes place? What are your ideas about lifelong learning?