Photo CC-By Michael Newman
I learned how to read when I was four. Obviously, I couldn’t read well at that age (simple words like cat, yes, etc. were about the extent of my ability) but still, reading came easily to me. But it took me until the age of eight to be able to read an analog clock. I honestly don’t even remember learning how to read, but I do remember the hours upon hours I spent trying to learn how to tell time. The frustration I felt learning this simple task sticks out to me as a moment in time where I really struggled as a learner and reminds me that tasks I found easy to learn (like reading) may be as difficult for my future students as learning how to tell time was for me.
Photo CC-By Jose Maria Cuellar
In my first few years of elementary school I didn’t really like writing. I know why now: it was because we had to write about really boring, uncreative topics. But I remember learning that I loved to write once we were allowed to create fun short stories. I didn’t realize it at the time, but now I know that the reason I fell in love with writing was because I was given choice. I could choose what I wanted to write about and that made a world of a difference. Now I understand that it is vital to give students choice – even if it’s something as simple as giving them a choice of what color pen they can write with.
Photo CC-By Chili Head
Being in team sports of course taught me many life lessons, but there is one major revelation I had thanks to sports that has tremendously impacted my learning for years. What comes easily and naturally to some does not at all come easily and naturally to others. I had witnessed this in school before, sure. But it wasn’t until my 6th grade intermural basketball season that I truly took notice of this. There were some girls who could dribble without looking, could take a layup shot and never miss. Then there were girls on the opposite side of the spectrum who couldn’t even dribble at all. But I also realized later – also thanks to sports – that just because a person is not naturally gifted at something, doesn’t mean that they can never become incredibly skilled at it. There was a girl in my grade who was on the ‘B’ squad all throughout middle school who then started on our freshman team and the next three years started varsity. It wasn’t because our high school teams were just desperate for bodies to put on the court; it was because she spent hours and hours practicing. This fortitude can be applied to the classroom. If a student doesn’t feel like they are a gifted writer, then they can absolutely improve! Just by reading 20 minutes more each day, their ability to not only read faster and more comprehensively will improve, but their ability to write will as well. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect.
I’ll never forget my freshman year of Spanish. I know what you think you read: I know a lot of Spanish. No. Not at all. I can maybe recollect a handful of colors, 1-10, and a couple of greetings – that’s about it. What I do remember from Spanish class is that it taught me the different learning styles. Odd right? Regardless, I learned that year that I am a very visual learner as well as a hands-on learner. It was a revelation to me, and knowing this has helped me better learn new skills. I understand how to help myself learn and this has been incredibly helpful throughout the years. When I was first told how to conjugate in Spanish, the concept went completely over my head. But when I saw a chart explaining it, it clicked immediately. It’s important to remember learning styles in the classroom in order to help all learners, not just similar learners.
Photo CC-By Pon1 and Cuba
During my second semester of college I took several education-related classes and learned for the first time what it might be like to be a teacher instead of a student. I realized that (in the short amount of time I have been in the teacher role) that it is way waaayyy harder to be a teacher than be a student. I learned that a teacher has to keep so much in mind!