Learning by Living

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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.

Decisions 2

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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8 thoughts on “Learning by Living

  1. Hi Shannon,
    It is great to be taking another course together! It has been a while since the last two. I really enjoyed reading your post. There were a few things that really resonated with me. Choice is amazing. When we present students with choices they can be creative and find ownership in what they are doing. This is something that I have become passionate about throughout my years of being a mother. There is so much power in giving children power. This strategy must be used with skill and wisdom. I also loved your thoughts on learning styles. (another powerful piece of knowledge:)) I too am a very visual and kinesthetic learner. I look forward to learning from you! Hope you have a great summer and good luck with your future endeavors.
    Lara Morris

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Lara!
      I was so excited to see that you were taking this class! From past experiences with you, I know that you will add great, meaningful contributions to our learning this summer.
      Isn’t it interesting how much better we like to do something or how much more excited we are about something when we are given a choice? Our minds are like little rebels: we hate to be told what to do.

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  2. The realization that what comes easy for some, doesn’t come easily for everyone is one that is incredibly important. I also try to teach that to my students. Last year, I taught second grade. I told my students that they couldn’t be afraid to fail or they wouldn’t learn everything. I also had a no laughing at each other or making comments rule in the classroom. (It’s amazing how snarky some kids, even 8 year olds can be!) We had multiple conversations throughout the year about how just because it was easy for you, doesn’t mean it’s easy for everyone. We also had conversations about how hearing “that’s easy,” if you are the one struggling, could make you feel terrible about yourself. We tried to have only positive comments in the classroom. I think it helped. At least I hope it helped. Good luck and nice post.

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  3. I love that line in the comments about how our minds are little rebels. It’s so true! I hate required reading–even when I’m the one requiring it! One of my dirty little confessions as a teacher: I have gone into classrooms to teach texts that I haven’t finished reading! (Shhhh, don’t tell anyone!) There’s something about “having” to do something that makes me not want to do it. Learning that about myself has motivated me to make a lot of changes in my courses so that they incorporate so much more independence and choice. I find that my students do far more work when they have so much more leeway and can choose their own learning.

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    • It’s funny, but actually the whole reason I picked the independent learning project that I did was because of the feeling of obligation. I know myself well and (although I am saddened by the fact of it) if a grade is riding on something, I’ll get it done. So using the independent learning project to help me wedding plan is just a match made in Heaven! However, I too have often either simply not done something or did a poor job of something merely because I was told to. I guess we’re all just little stinkers at heart 😉

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