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One of the privileges of my job is that I get to sit with teachers during professional development sessions, workshops, and study groups and witness the many ways teachers are showing up as learners. In this post I highlight three main ways teachers are showing up that are worth our attention and our celebration.

Teachers show up when they lean in to the discomfort that change can bring.

Just when we think we have something figured out it seems we are presented with new information or a student who does not seem to benefit from what we believed was tried and true. When presented with an opportunity for change many of us experience fear and anxiety. We might be thinking, “What if I can’t do this new component well?” or “What if I am judged by others if I have some trouble implementing this new strategy?” The what if’s of change can cause our heart rates to spike and our chocolate consumption to increase.

Many teachers are deciding to lean into this discomfort and acknowledge it is there. Every time we let our colleagues know we are hesitant or anxious or afraid we have the opportunity to feel those feeling more deeply and then work from them rather than pretending they are not there. When we spend so much time and energy trying to avoid change it can lead to more stress and more fear. When we embrace the discomfort and remember it is a normal part of change, we can spend our energy learning instead of resisting. We practice this by beginning our workshops and meetings with a brief “check-in” where we share how we are feeling with one another without judgment.

Teachers show up when they embrace the vulnerability of not knowing it all.

When teachers are able to say, “I don’t know how to do this” or “I don’t understand” they are acknowledging they too are learners. It can feel quite vulnerable to admit to ourselves and to our colleagues that we don’t know it all. But, it can also feel very artificial and lead to stress to pretend we have all the answers. When even one teacher in the room embraces the “not knowing-ness” it creates space for everyone in the room to take on the role of a learner. Sometimes all it takes is giving ourselves and our colleagues permissions to question, wonder, and inquire with curiosity. We practice this by ending our workshops by not simply sharing our new learning but also sharing the questions we are still pondering.

Teachers show up when they put themselves in the shoes of their students.

A third way teachers are showing up as learners is to go through the same process that they are asking their students to experience. During workshops we don’t just talk about what students will do; we try out what we think they might do. When we have experienced the learning process ourselves we can talk authentically with students about how it felt, what worked, what was challenging, and offer sound advice that is based on real experience. This also helps us develop empathy for students because we can relate to what it might be like to face a problem, challenge, or bump in the road. Taking the time to practice what we teach is a powerful way to anticipate student’s responses, prep for our demonstrations, and relate to students as co-learners. We practice this by building in “try it” time into workshops where we have time to live the work ourselves.

When we show up we get the most from the time and we also help our colleagues by creating a culture of learning. Thank you teachers, for showing up. We celebrate you and the often challenging job of being not only a teacher, but also a learner.

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