Thursday, June 21, 2012

Learning...and re-learning...

It was about 2 years ago that I created my blog.  I didn't tell a soul, because though I was ready to write, I wasn't ready for you to read what I had to say.  Thinking about yesterday's post on vulnerability, I guess I've made at least a little progress in putting myself "out there," whatever that means.  Does cyberspace count?

It took me a year after creating the blog to tell anyone I had created it.  I didn't write too much during that year, but I did write and post for... no one to read.  There have been a few times lately as I've been writing that I've thought , "Gee, I think I've written about this before..." without knowing exactly when.  I then wonder if you all get bored reading about the same thing. Then I realize that you may not have read the other posts before or maybe I (or you!) have a tad more insight than the last time I wrote about it, so it doesn't get old.  I don't know.  

In India I led several teacher trainings.  It was something I'd never done before.  I had a blast and it seems the teachers did, too. More importantly, I think they left with some knowledge and some skills they didn't arrive with.  The bonus for me was that I got to take a critical look at my own teaching and see both my strengths and the places I could use some work.  I realized I'd learned a lot over 14 years of teaching...with a lot more still to learn.

The teachers I worked with in my first training came from villages.  They teach small mixed-age/level classes in settings I cannot imagine trying to conduct classes- sometimes outside, often without much parent support, often without resources beyond the brain in their head.  The goal of such teachers is to give the kids the most basic skills- basic reading, basic math- but the teachers themselves are often poorly-equipped to teach effectively, even if they go in with great motivation and enthusiasm.  They simply haven't had much training.  After my first training with this group, I was asked to do a second one with a different group of village teachers.

When I arrived for the second training, I saw that most of the teachers in the room were, in fact, the same teachers I'd worked with the first time.  This was disconcerting for me, since I planned to do essentially the same workshop as I'd done the first time.  I expressed my concern to the sister in charge and she said to just do what I'd planned to do since there were a few new people there.

We went through the day as planned.  When we got to a section on using math manipulatives (yes, the Spanish/theology teacher gave a lesson on using math manipulatives, go figure), I asked if any of the second-timers were willing to demonstrate how they would do the lesson.  One woman, having already tried it out with her students, was brave enough to volunteer.  When she got up in front of us, she modeled the lesson better than I would have.  It was a proud moment for me, because I saw that something "stuck" from the last training.  She took what I gave her and ran with it.  She made the lesson even better than I'd imagined it could be!  When she finished it was fun to point out all the things she'd done right.  It was gratifying to see the pride on her face. 

At the end of the second training, I asked for feedback from the day.  Many of the second-timers said they were so glad to have had an opportunity to hear and see everything again.  Much of what I'd introduced to them was completely new (the first time I taught them): nothing like their experience as students, nothing like what they'd learned at other workshops.

Duh.  I should not have been worried when I saw the same faces at the second training.  I had given them a lot to process during the first training, far too much to integrate and implement all at once.  My hope had been that by exposing them to a variety of skills and concepts, I'd guarantee that everyone left with something useful.  I hoped that from it all they'd leave with at least one thing really resonating. I think they did leave with something the first time.  The second time a little more sank in...

Just like the teacher trainings, life lessons, the ones that shift us from one way of thinking or one way of living to another, take some time to sink in.  They take a first exposure, a second, a third, and maybe many more times before we really learn the lessons we need to learn.  Sometimes we only catch one or two drops of knowledge as a bucketful is poured on us.  That's OK.  If the lessons are important enough, the drops will come at us again, maybe in another bucket, maybe in a rainstorm, maybe in the sea.  The learning process can be exhilarating when we feel the lessons seeping into our pores and frustrating when we feel them pelting us like hail and falling around us without result.  

I guess that's why I keep writing and I keep coming back to certain topics.  I've got to visit them over and over again, so I don't forget what I've already learned, so I can master some of the skills and ideas I'm trying out, sometimes for the first time, more often for the it's-too-high-to-keep-counting-th time.  Now that you are a part of the journey with me, your reading and your presence in my life help keep me honest, help me take another step forward, help me learn the lessons.  Thanks.  I hope I can reciprocate your generosity.   

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