Author: Marina Rodriguez
Photo by Marina Rodriguez
You can't fail at what you don't try... you can't succeed either.
I've come to the realization that teaching today, may not really be teaching at all. Having the abilities and skills necessary to be good “teachers” for students in our modern world, may simply call on us to be guides instead.
The task of guiding and assisting the act of learning is much more powerful than what very well could be the outdated art of traditional teaching. Why do I think this? The simple answer is… there's no comparison between myself and the world they have at their fingertips, technology. I can't, I won't, and I’d rather not compete. I'd rather be their guide. I'd make a greater impact that way. Allowing students to seek their passions, explore creativity, collaborate, communicate well with others, and think critically, independently or with others is what's truly important anyway. Isn't that what we want as educators?... Independent, creative thinkers?... Students who just can't wait to learn?
How do you grow this type of student? I believe this is accomplished with the simple act of guiding. The way I see the job of Guide is one that is truly multi-tiered in depth. It should be a person who is a complex combination of listener, cheerleader, supporter, director, idea board, positive reinforcer, questioner, sounding board, co-learner, partner, and if you’re really good, life-changer, all while holistically taking into account each and every student as an individual. A Guide is a person who naturally pulls out mini lesson, after mini lesson taking those who push for more into deeper learning because they are ready, not because it's next week's lesson, so we hold back.
The classroom should be an organic movement of learning, constantly in motion. I have a picture of this in my mind; it's clear and exciting to imagine, but I'm not there... yet. I am an excited learner because I lead my own learning. Once I began to do this, I realized truly what the impact could be for my students, if they could lead their own learning as well. There are nights I cannot sleep, thinking about how and what we'd learn the next day or the next week, different than the way it was done the year prior. Sleep is now becoming a necessary, but annoying interruption, because there are nights I can't stop reading about things I want to learn. Could this behavior be contagious? Could I possibly “guide” my students to be leaders of their own learning? I stopped to notice my class the other day, holding that question in my mind… Are my students becoming as excited as I now am to learn? I discovered, yes.
The impact was powerful for Mariana, one of my students. She decided to change her person for a biography research project. She was so empowered by her learning, that she cut out the "teacher" and the idea of asking if she could, and instead simply filled me in that she would. It was fascinating to see that empowerment before my eyes. It was subtle, but I was deeply inspired by it. At that moment, I was not her teacher, I was her guide. The respect she held for me in treating me as a partner, instead of an authoritarian figure was beyond what I could express in words. I was proud. I was grateful. I was honored. She was now the leader of her own learning.
I have decided to no longer sit by the shoreline, waiting for the next PD to fill me in on discoveries of oftentimes outdated and mundane ideas of yesterday's classroom. Even those academic gems discovered in the short past, may already be months, even years, in the technological past... and in our world today, that's old news.
Learning has a heartbeat, and it's growing and changing every single minute. How then can we even fathom trying to control what students should and should not learn, because it's not listed on the "all encompassing" curriculum? We should instead devote ourselves to being guides for our students, allowing them “permission” to learn and allowing them the freedom to pursue what they love; to connect what they need to know with play, while guiding them to discover what’s worth learning. I have found they will outshine your high expectations each time. They will go beyond the limits of curricula. Giving students the freedom to learn without limits is powerful. I would rather be their guide for this reason. Guiding my students in the right direction, and the freedom to lead their own learning, has allowed me the freedom to grow as well.
My love for learning has grown throughout the years. The more time that I spend leading my own learning by seeking out what I want to learn, trying and failing, and then trying again, has impacted me in ways I cannot describe in words. I have found and created my own PLN, and I’m guiding my students to do the same. They are now excited learners.
Learning is never ending… every teacher knows that. I must be a true learner to hold the high title of being a Guide to my students. The impact on my students, as a Guide, is much more powerful than I could have ever imagined. It is, I have found, the highest title that I could have in a classroom of students.
Teaching is a gift. Guiding is life-changing. I’d rather be a guide than a teacher.
Marina Rodriguez is a California native, living and teaching in Texas, and a National Writing Project, Heart of Texas Writing Project, Teacher Consultant.