Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Sideways Learning

I find it ironic to be considered a "teacher," when in reality I am more of a "learner." Currently,I am learning how to work with English Language Learners (ELLs), and how to navigate all the latest technology, while still trying to perfect my craft. Obviously, learning is a lifelong process and everyday there are new lessons to be learned... everyday I am still trying to "get it right."

This reminds me of "sideways learning," a term coined by E.J. Langer (1996). According to Langer, "sideways learning" is a mindful state that exists when one embodies an openness to new ideas, alertness to similarities and differences, sensitivity to particular contexts, implicit awareness of multiple perspectives, and awareness of what is occurring in the present .

Isn't that what we do as teachers? We must practice mindful teaching, reflecting on how our everyday actions support student learning. We must be mindful of the match between our instruction and the standards for which we are responsible, sensitive to the needs of different learners, and awareness of "who is getting it and who is not." The terms achievement gap, value-added and adequate yearly progress are now part of our mindful teaching and reflection. Is it any wonder we go home tired each afternoon?

We are constantly rethinking our instruction and trying to perfect our craft, knowing that tomorrow we will have another opportunity to support those students and close that achievement gap. So enjoy these last few weeks of summer, knowing that soon the school doors will open and each afternoon we will go home tired. Tired from "sideways learning," but anxious to get up in the morning and do it all over again.


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