The Elusive Future

The future bamboozles me. It is abstract and elusive. The future can be quite unsatisfying to me because it is unknown, it is grey (not black or white) and it is forever changing its shades.  Some changes are foreseen and predictable and some not.  My nature is to ‘always be prepared’.  Yes – I was heavily influenced by Girl Guides and Scouts growing up.  So how can I be prepared when I don’t know what to be prepared for.  While we can make predictions or projections about the future, absolute certainty is never quite there.  In some ways this keeps me current, alert, on my toes so to speak – but that is only if I have a healthy balance.  Caring about the future and staying current is important. But over focusing on the future does not leave me fulfilled. 

I began teaching in 2001.  Therefore I have a sample size of n = 15 years teaching experience (give or take). I’ve been successful – kids have learned, thrived, and since grown into successful young adults and for me too – I’ve thrived and been successful. Therefore the data shows that I am adaptable since kids learning, thriving and becoming successful continues to happen even though there has been changes to other variables such as teaching practices and tools over the time. And let’s face it, there has been some significant changes in teaching over the last 15 years.  I would never have thought my vocabulary would include MOOC, badges, cloud-based, when referring to education. But here I am today reading, discussing and blogging about exactly topics like this.

A quick recap of the last 15 years to illustrate the change and adaptions: In my first teaching experience, I taught English to Korean students aged 4 – 18 in a Hagwon in Seoul in a small room with chairs around the perimeter and no technology in the room! A couple years later in my 4th grade classroom at an international school, I had one desktop computer for the class of 23 students.  Back then I did whole class novels and themey units, and visited the library and computer lab once a week.  I’m now teaching in a 1-1 BYOD classroom/school with open learning areas, and an iCommons adjacent to my space and extending across the floor with most learning happening through workshop approach with flexible small groups and 1-1 conferencing.  Kids are still learning and thriving.  

So after much soul searching, a lot of angst thinking about the future, I came to the realisation that my energy was best spent not worrying about what was the future and getting ready for it, but turning my focus on to the disposition and practices of myself – the teacher – the thing that I am in control of.  After all, the work of Hattie suggests that it is the teacher that makes the difference and impacts learning in the classroom over many other variables.
flickr photo shared by cybrarian77 under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC ) license

“It is what teachers know, do, and care about which is very powerful in this learning equation.” (Hattie, 2003)

So I don’t plan to spend the next 15 years of my teaching career chasing ‘The Future’, I’m trying to retrain my thinking to be in the now and be the best now with some long lasting qualities that will serve well know matter what the future holds.  There will be changes and new practices and tools, and I will adapt as I have in the past.  So my key dispositions and practices to focus on are:

  1. Getting/Staying connected – be a connected educator (essential for #2)
  2. Developing Professional Learning Communities (PLNs)
  3. Staying current – Read, read, read – articles, blogs, books and act or respond on what is read (connected to both #1 and #2).
  4. Growth Mindset – Develop a growth mindset in myself and my students (but being wary of mindset misconceptions)  
  5. Common sense – well I think this is a universal need in all professions, but serves especially well in education

Curriculum, teaching practices, technology, learning environments will change for sure, but my adaptability will continue. So whatever happens in teaching and education, I will be ready.  If you are reading this and wondering how to be an educator like this there is partly a simple answer:  COETAIL! #1 – #3 are very much taken up in COETAIL so sign up for the next cohort starting in February.  As for #4 and #5 – much of this comes from my life experience especially my life growing up in New Zealand during the 70s and 80s, barefoot freedom, with learning happening just as much inside as outside of a classroom.  For that I am grateful because it is already in my DNA.  I just have to grow it.

What disposition or practice would you focus on to be successful in the future?


3 Replies to “The Elusive Future”

  1. Hi Tracy, I love how you talk about dispositions that we should have as teacher who want to be ready to take on whatever tomorrow might bring. The only thing I would add to your list is a willingness to take risks and a willingness to change. As someone famous said somewhere at some time: “The only thing that’s constant is change”. If we’re not willing to adapt we might as well hand in out teacher badge because we won’t be doing our students any favors.
    It also makes me think about how important it is for students to see us modelling those things. If we think we can’t plan for our futures as teachers just imagine how our students feel about their futures. It just reinforces that we need to move away from teaching content and really focus on skills and dispositions.

  2. Hi Tracy,
    This was such a hard post for me as I get overwhelmed thinking too much of the future, which inevitably leads to how I can plan for it in order to control it! So I really like your idea to control what you can – yourself and your attitude!
    I think an important part of a growth mindset is expecting to fail. I’m reading Brene Brown’s book, Rising Strong, and she writes that struggle can be our greatest call to courage, and rising strong our clearest path to deeper meaning, wisdom, and hope. I read the Edutopia article you referenced and I agree that often teachers get in their own way between their self-doubt and their unfamiliarity around the uncomfortable feelings of learning. I suppose this goes along with what Rob mentioned – the willingness to take a risk.
    Anyway, great advice for teachers just starting or experienced teachers feeling uncomfortable about changes.

  3. Hi Tracy,
    It amazes me how so many in this cohort have reflected on their own journey over decades, and the changes that they have seen in teaching in a rapidly changing world. It amazes me how similar much of that journey has been to my own. Reading through your reflection has brought home your point about disposition very strongly. Reflecting on my own journey once again, I see that it was not the aptitude for learning new skills that was the trick, but the disposition to be open to changes, the courage to fail and try again, and the quiet realisation that every tiny triumph when little things go right sometimes that has made the journey what it is – growth. Until recently, I felt I was growing but didn’t quite understand what this growing meant. Now I know that all this while I was growing towards making learning more meaningful for my students in a world that is so different from the one I began teaching in. There is a renewed sense of purpose in what I do as a teacher, and in the company of colleagues far and wide who feel the same. Thanks for bringing home this point so effectively.

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