To participate in study, consultation, action and reflection with peer teachers.
For brevity, I’ll refer to these four mutually reinforcing elements of collective learning as just “learning.” This was immensely helpful as I prepared to teach. I feel the lack of it now that I am spending more time teaching than learning with other teachers. I learned much more regularly with other teachers while I was still in school, preparing to be a physics teacher. I learned a bit less frequently while I was in my first year as a full-time teacher – where a friend and former classmate and I were able to learn together. But during that year, I felt like I needed the shared learning more than she did – which made it a bit difficult even though I was forced to grow more on my own.
Yes, it is supremely important for an individual to develop his or her capability to learn by himself or herself and to refine his or her character and skills. But is it not more beneficial – to individuals and to society – when there is a reliable community of learners to participate grow with and find and offer logistical and emotional encouragement and support? During the times when I’ve been actively teaching, though, I’ve felt more of a push towards isolated, individual learning – with collective learning being an after thought. I wonder: is that push internal? External? System? Imagined?
Getting back to my history, I am now learning with my wife – who is a student in a university program designed to prepare elementary school teachers for their work.
The learning processes I describe – including study, consultation, action, and reflection – simply CANNOT be done by an individual. Perhaps someone could suggest that thought can replace consultation, but such would be redundant with reflection. Among the myriad benefits of consultation is that it allows multiple individuals to discover the most beneficial ideas that exist among them, and allows them to move forward in unison toward a shared aim. (Yes, a common challenge is reaching shared goals, but in the interest of time I will reserve that for later.) Action, when based on a shared vision and agreed-upon approaches, can lead to camaraderie and confidence to try new things. Reflection with others is better than reflection by oneself because negative emotions can color challenges as barriers, while others can help you challenges as opportunities. At risk of making this paragraph too long, when we suggest to each other things to study we begin to pull back the curtains put up by our own biases.
Not only do I have a strong desire to learn collaboratively with other teachers, but I also desire to help new teachers to do the same.
Questions to consider later
- Is “mature” a better word than “modify” when referring to changes in behavior, thought, mind, heart, and spiritual condition?
- How can people working together in the same discipline (or organization or community) come to share goals when they have diverse experiences and personal priorities? Does this relate to forgetting one’s own preferences? If so, how can such a notion be advanced in a culture where people are systemically encouraged to seek their own preference and gratification with little to no regard for their implications?
- What does “accompaniment” mean and how can it be manifested in educational institutions?