I just finished my 20th year in education: 12 years in a classroom and 8 years in technology professional development (with about 3.5 years in corporate technology in between).
As a teacher of children, I’m patient. I see the look in the eyes of the children who don’t “get it” yet, and I am able to work with them until I see that lightbulb go off. I never want my students to feel rushed or hurried in their learning, because that’s not what learning is about. “Hurry up and learn” makes absolutely no sense.
With adults, I haven’t always been as patient. I will admit to listening to people talking about education and thinking, “come on already!” But just as it is detrimental to students, this lack of patience can be harmful to bringing along the adults, too. I’ve learned to be more patient as I’ve gotten older and seen that same look in the eyes of adults.
When I was in tech PD, I was responsible for a lot of different types of training, including those that were program or tool specific. My favorite sessions to write and help lead were the sessions that were more about philosophy, pedagogy, and modes of learning… and then looking to see which tools we could use to help accomplish the goals. I’m very curious by nature, and when I don’t know how something works, I teach myself. Over the years, I’ve learned that not everyone is like that, and that’s okay.
What I continue to remind myself is that, regardless of where I am in my own journey, there are many others still at the beginning. Step one. If I’m impatient with them, then my goal of helping others to move forward breaks down… and those people are discouraged.
I don’t want to be that person who turns someone off from new ideas or trying something for the first time, yet I’ve seen this happen (often) in our network. Shaming another educator (or parent or student or whomever) for not knowing what everyone else apparently already knows is not okay. It doesn’t make you seem like an expert… it makes you seem like a jerk. Think back to your best models and teachers. I’m guessing they weren’t jerks.
Sometimes the people around you who are the most resistant to learning something new are the ones who are the most insecure about their learning. People used to ask me what I thought the difference between teaching children and teaching adults was. I always responded, “Adults are more challenging, because they don’t give themselves as much grace as children do.”
Finding a safe place and a certain level of comfort is important to help cautious learners take risks. That can look different for everyone. Some prefer to tinker independently, and others need a helping hand.
If you go to a conference, hopefully you’ll find sessions that meet your needs. Personally, I learn best in sessions where I can participate and discuss. I like to verbally process what I’m learning and doing.
Some people like great storytellers. Keynotes and lectures- the good ones, anyway- can be great for a lot of people. A good storyteller wraps you up in her story, shares the emotional connections to the learning with you, and makes you feel the learning. Lectures aren’t for everyone, but I don’t think we should throw them out completely just because some people don’t like them.
For the record, shaming a mode of how information is shared isn’t okay, either. I’ve seen a lot of backlash toward keynotes and lectures at conferences. Yet, the good keynotes are often packed. Ignite sessions are always packed. This tells me SOME people still find them useful. If you don’t, then don’t go. Seems like a simple solution.
The point of this I guess is simple: find what works for you. Ask for help when you need it. Mentor others who are just beginning to learn things you have already learned. If you don’t like lectures, find something else. If you prefer someone showing you step-by-step how something is done, look for a workshop that caters to that need.
Most importantly, be encouraging. Check your snark level. I love snark more than most, but I’m learning to hold back… because what I might think is old news or something we all SHOULD know isn’t necessarily the same for someone else.
We’re all at different levels in our learning, and we learn at different paces. If we truly below that we should honor those differences in kids, we should honor that in the adult learners, too.