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:
- Getting/Staying connected – be a connected educator (essential for #2)
- Developing Professional Learning Communities (PLNs)
- Staying current – Read, read, read – articles, blogs, books and act or respond on what is read (connected to both #1 and #2).
- Growth Mindset – Develop a growth mindset in myself and my students (but being wary of mindset misconceptions)
- 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?