Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Teacher as Student

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This week I get the opportunity to spend three days in training for PBL (project based learning). The trainer is excellent...she is knowledgeable and a good teacher. Learning about PBL is something I enjoy and I feel like fits easily into my teaching routine. I sat down ready to learn and to create an interesting and creative PBL unit, so why is it so hard? It wasn't long until I started thinking things like...

I don't know what to do. 
I am struggling with finding an idea. 
I can't decide. 
Nothing seems to fit. 
I am getting confused.
I can't find a clear answer to my problems.
I don't undestand. 
What do I do? 

These are some of my thoughts from today. It devolved into...

This is hard. 
I don't like this. 
This stinks.
I don't want to do this.
I'm done!

Suddenly, it dawned on me that THIS is what my students feel like sometimes...some of my students feel like this a lot of the time! I think about that while I struggle. What helps me? The trainer tells the group that it's ok to be confused right now. That helps me! She approaches me and offers support and some encouragement. I want more. I want her to tell me how to do it. I want the right answer, but I (as an adult) understand she wants me to learn. This helps me. I feel seen and heard. She leaves me alone to find a solution...for a long time. I want her to come back and check in again. She doesn't for a long time. I am getting annoyed and I feel like she's ignoring me. Later on, she comes over again to check in. I've made some decisions. I am feeling a little better about where I am. She says that she knew I'd find my way through. That helps me. She had faith in me. She believed in me. 

I want to remember the feelings of discomfort. When my students feel like this, how do they act? Sometimes they talk...I needed a lot of talking to figure out where I wanted to go. Sometimes they misbehave...I was tempted to get up and walk out, just for a break. It felt like I was never going to figure it out and that feeling of "FAILURE" was staring me right in the face. Sometimes they pass notes...I really wanted to talk to a friend, so during a break, I texted one who had been through this training for support. Remembering these feelings and this experience will help me understand my students and why they make the choices they make. 

As I left the first day, I felt like I had survived a tough day of learning! I have an's not complete yet, but it's there. The best part of this is being a student again and remembering what it feels like to work at something when you don't feel any success. As the teacher, I must remember to... 

1. Listen 
2. Offer encouragement
3. Ask questions
4. Walk away
5. Check in again
6. SEE my students
7. Think about the WHY

Back to day two and more lessons to learn!


  1. It sounds like you are learning on many different levels. The fact that you are able to recognize your frustration and translate that into a realization of your own student's frustrations makes you an amazing teacher.

  2. I was in a workshop last week and had the same experience. It is a good reminder before school starts.

  3. It's good to be in the shoes of a student sometimes. You can share your experience with your students, showing that you know and understand what learning feels like.

  4. I agree with Terje, Michelle. Stepping into students' shoes help us understand the frustration many learners have. Since my specialty was working with disenfranchised and struggling learners, I have seen so many faces of confusion, boredom, and frustration that a caring smile and a gentle nudge seem to be the antidote necessary. I think your experience has readied you for the fall.

  5. Love this! We don't get to switch places with our kiddos very often, but we learn so much when we do.

  6. What a great lesson you learned by just being there...being a student. So often we forget how it feels to be frustrated in the learning process. I like your list of things for you to remember. Glad you had a good experience...even if the beginning was a bit stressful.

  7. Love how you captured the sequence and the struggle. The Slice Police just sent me a message, so I can't comment more at the moment (am supposed to be writing my own slice *sly grin*). I appreciate how you connected your frustration to your students and then found your way to clarity. That's learning!

  8. So interesting to experience failure and frustration. Learning is hard work, and it's good to be reminded of that through new experiences. I love the take aways you've capture for your own teaching. Have a great week!

  9. Love your processing your pain in learning. This is something I'm going to share with my colleagues. Getting in touch with our struggling student is an important part of teaching!
    Thank you, Michelle!


Please share your thoughts. I love comments!