How often do we as teachers think of ourselves as students? Do we look for opportunities to learn from our students? On those required PD days or weekend workshops, do we truly put ourselves in the position of learner? I know the answer for me is often no, not really. It’s easy to just check off another box or keep pressing through my lesson plans. It’s much harder to focus on what I don’t know and admit needing help.
This weekend I truly experienced what it feels like to be a student. There were moments of challenge that made my head hurt! Activities that were way outside of my comfort zone. I’d forgotten how frustrating those times can be, especially when they involve disagreements or differences in teaching philosophies. I don’t particularly like to debate and often avoid conflict. But I was reminded of their benefit and usefulness when used in structured and limited ways.
The challenging times were followed by moments of encouragement and creativity. When you sing or dance with a group of people you’ve just debated, the air clears rather quickly. There really is something powerful about music and it’s ability to influence mood and atmosphere. And that is the root of what made this weekend so special.
Our topic was “Teaching Music to Students With Special Needs.” The group of participants was made up of music teachers and special education teachers. As you can imagine, the personalities, opinions, and philosophies were strong on both sides. With the help of our amazing instructor, we were able to work together, learning new material and sharing helpful ideas from our own teaching experiences.
Tomorrow I will head back to my classroom. Yes, I will be taking super fun, new, and exciting activities with me. Hopefully those will help renew my energy as the teacher. But more important than the activities will be the attention I give to my students as individuals, looking for ways to both support and challenge all of them. Focusing on each one as a person first, while also recognizing and acknowledging their differences.
Being a student is hard work! And to be a great teacher, I have to continue being a student, too!