The Growth Moment No One Anticipated

Aaron Roberts

I am a Learning Experience Designer in Mason, Ohio. My work in education is about being a creative catalyst. I want to help all learners – educators, administrators, and community members alike – realize their creative potential! Twitter: @RobertsLearns

This year has been a journey! That’s how I intended to end this school year when speaking to the individual teachers I’ve worked with this year. Last summer when we started ramping up plans on how we would grow a mindset for personalized learning with Habits of Mind, we knew every teacher would be on a journey. Some teachers might be “bird-watchers” who observed what was happening. Other teachers could be “trailblazers” who take in all of the latest research and newest ideas and shift their instruction at the drop of a hat.

Whether a teacher was a bird-watcher or a trailblazer, our team of Learning Experience Designers was determined to honor the journey of each educator. Then it happened: the growth moment no one could have anticipated. In a fast-acting response to the COVID-19 crisis, our governor closed our school buildings. At first, he called it an extended Spring Break. Then, we were told that we had to keep the learning going. Habits of Mind have been a deep part of our Personalized Learning Journey. Having the Habits as a frame for our thinking has helped us live up to how we believe anyone should respond to an event.

In our district, we promote the E+R=O formula.

When an Event occurs (E), it combines to our Response (R) to create an Outcome (O). The more disciplined the response, the better the outcome—or so the theory goes. Habits of Mind have been instrumental to growing our thinking to manage complex considerations in the dynamic development of a teaching and learning response.

Habits of Mind in Action

Last week, I had the pleasure of holding many one-on-one learning sessions with individual teachers trying to figure out how they are going to deliver remote learning experiences. At the same time, I’ve been really engaged in social media. I’ve seen teachers sharing what they’ve learned, helping one another, creating new ideas and solutions. In short, I’ve seen the Habits of Mind in action. Teachers deserve a pat on the back from a safe social distance for their efforts during this time.

To teachers I say thank you for the following:

Thanks for Connecting – You’ve Remained Open to Continuous Learning

Teachers are connecting with each other in ways we may have taken for granted in the past. Social media networks like Twitter and Facebook have come alive with thoughts and ideas. People are opening up resources they’ve made. Most importantly, teachers have been admitted to needing to learn something new and have asked for help learning it. In each one-on-one I’ve had with a teacher, they’ve had an idea of what they’ve wanted to do, but just needed help executing it. It takes vulnerability to admit that you have a gap in what you want to do and the knowledge it takes to do it. In this wild time in our careers as educators, it would be easy to shut down in frustration and panic. I thank teachers for remaining open to their own growth and learning in this time.

Thanks for Trying New Things – You’ve Been Creating, Imagining, and Innovating

Bridging the gap between an idea and a workable solution is the key to turn imagination to creativity and from creativity to innovation. That process has been fluid and relentless as teachers try, learn, and iterate at a feverous pace. Having spent a few years with the title “Innovative Learning Coach,” I know that some people bristle at the idea of “innovation.” They think they may not be innovative enough. Or they think that innovative teacher involves technology. The truth is that innovation involves ideas and executing on those ideas. Thank you to all of those teachers who have been tackling that specific view of innovation. You’re trying hard and succeeding big!

Thanks for Sharing – I’m Responding with Wonderment and Awe

Teachers all over the world are working at their personal best right now. I am in awe of all levels of teacher learning. It should be noted that it can be tough to see the big things happening on social media while you’re personally working through something someone may consider small. Whether it’s “small” things like learning a new tool or “big” things like driving around neighborhoods to see students from their car, every teacher I know is growing for the sake of their kids. Teachers are at their personal best. Go easy on yourself and don’t judge yourself if you are unable to do some of the big things you see out there. I thank you for growing, no matter what that growth looks like.

Teachers have been responding in awe-inspiring ways. They are putting their Habits of Mind to action and doing whatever it takes to make the lives of their students as normal as one could hope. Thank you teachers for all that you are doing, are willing to do, and continue to do.

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