Teachers for Teachers | Slice of Life: Moving Beyond the “What” of Learning
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Slice of Life: Moving Beyond the “What” of Learning

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“I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he or she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas lights.”   – Maya Angelou

We came across this quote this summer.  We wrote it down immediately.  There is so much to this quote.  How often do we think about our learners in terms of how they handle things like rainy days, a lost item, and problems that require both patience and speed?

To us, this quote is about assessment.  In recent years, assessment has shifted toward high-stakes, quantitative tools.  It is more than that.  Assessment should be a window into how we think, process and problem solve.  Grit, resilience and a growth mindset are more about one’s disposition and outlook.  Success isn’t about what we know; it is about what we do with what we know.

As teachers, we need to continually observe our students in the moment.  It is not enough to teach them standards, skills and content based strategies.  We need to help them understand themselves as learners and problem solvers.  They need to know how they think, learn and respond to a challenge.  They need to reflect on how they handle adversity and disappointment.  If they do not learn this at a young age they may never have the chance to learn healthy, productive responses to failure, set-backs, and change.

Many districts are focused right now on mapping standards.  Every lesson is linked to a standard.  Each unit is planned to cover grade level objectives.  We think this work is important.  We need to stand on each other’s shoulders and support our students in learning to be readers and writers.  The concern is that if we only focus on the “what” of our students’ learning, we might miss the “how” of their learning.

In many ways the “how” of learning is more important than the “what.”  The “how” transfers year to year and across content areas.  It is a thread that is weaved throughout one’s school day, year, and experience.  When we take the time to assess and teach our students how to learn and face challenges, we are helping them develop lifelong dispositions.  These dispositions will impact their success in school and their happiness in life.

How do you handle these three things?  Do you wish your teachers spent more time helping you face adversity and change?  How can you help your students think about how they learn and respond to challenge?

Clare and Tammy

5 Comments
  • Avatar
    Fran
    Posted at 10:15h, 20 September Reply

    Love the quote and looking forward to your chat tonight. I truly believe that your quote is so important for all teachers. And this as well: “When we take the time to assess and teach our students how to learn and face challenges, we are helping them develop lifelong dispositions. These dispositions will impact their success in school and their happiness in life.”

    Lifelong success – more than just standards!

  • Avatar
    Lynne Dorfman
    Posted at 10:36h, 20 September Reply

    I am going to return to this piece again! It is important to observe our students in the act of learning – the processes, not just the products. The quote was a perfect way to begin this piece, and the reflection questions were a perfect way to close. Thanks for making me think about how I can help students respond to challenges and learn new things!

  • Avatar
    Erika Victor
    Posted at 10:54h, 20 September Reply

    I love this quote and find it so true! After a hard day today I am testing my how I handle things mode.I especially liked these lines: “They need to know how they think, learn and respond to a challenge. They need to reflect on how they handle adversity and disappointment.” Thanks for always keeping me thinking.

  • Avatar
    Linda Baie
    Posted at 14:16h, 20 September Reply

    My daughter has been helping the oldest granddaughter handle “new” challenges in the past years. This granddaughter often seems aware of all the “facts” of things, and when they’re new, the things that could go wrong top her list! Slowly she’s learning to evaluate the probabilities, and then worry less. She went on an overnight last week with her class and was scared to go, but did, and had a marvelous time. That consistent evaluation for her has helped; she is learning about herself and what she needs so she can DO them. FYI-she’s seven, 2nd grade. Hopefully every teacher can help their students reflect about themselves, the challenges and what works to meet them! Thanks for such a thoughtful post!

  • Avatar
    Tara
    Posted at 20:31h, 20 September Reply

    “In many ways the “how” of learning is more important than the “what.” I love this – it’s what I aim for in my classroom.

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