As a teacher and parent, I’m constantly reminded that children learn at different rates. Sometimes, it’s an issue of what is developmentally appropriate and, other times, it’s about their readiness. For some kids, there are occasions when they simply are not ready to learn something new. It might be due to some current event in their lives or whether they had breakfast that morning… whatever the case, it’s my job to help them get to that stage of being ready to learn.
Repeat after me: I cannot force readiness.
[cc licensed photo by kevindooley]
Now I want to transfer this same concept to adult learning, and in this case, professional growth of educators, specifically in the areas of ed reform, social media, and other web tools.
There are many, and I would include myself, who are considered early adopters in the above areas. We clamor for change NOW and reform NOW. For years, we’ve been using certain tools that some people are only now discovering. For example, I started blogging over seven years ago. There are quite a few people who have been blogging for much longer than I have. When a new tool comes around, I’m usually hopping on that bandwagon to see what it’s about, does it provide value to me, and will I continue to use it. It’s in my nature to tinker around with something that interests me. Sometimes, I get impatient that change doesn’t happy quickly enough for my tastes.
Because I’m an early adopter in these areas, it might be easy for me to then complain about the “glacial pace” of other educators when it comes to learning about new ideas, new tools, and making real changes in education. Come on! I’ve been doing this for almost a decade… get a move on! Maybe I would express my frustration about the perceived banal chatter or echo chamber mentality regarding topics that I’ve already been discussing with my networks for years.
But that would be extremely hypocritical of me. If there are children who, for one reason or another, are not ready to learn a concept or skill, it’s my job to help them move along and get to that place where they are ready.
So… shouldn’t I also be accepting of other educators who have not quite reached that state of readiness? Shouldn’t I continue to offer my assistance, perhaps in the form of webinars or online opportunities, to help fellow educators learn about those things that are new to them, even if they’re not necessarily new to me? What about brand new educators? What if they were not exposed to any of these things in their teacher education? How will they find new ideas? Where will they receive options to extend their own professional growth?
The answer is the same as it was with the children: I cannot force readiness. I can only do what I can to help others move to that next step in their own growth. Peer coach. Offer suggestions. Offer assistance. Show real examples of how using these tools or participating in something like an Elluminate session on a Saturday helps me to learn more.
Being an educator and early adopter doesn’t mean I get to a point where I get to dictate where the rest of the world “should” be. Nor does it mean I should look down my nose at those who are still offering discussions and PD sessions about things I might already know.
When I teach other adults about web tools and networks, I constantly bring up the fact that you use those tools which offer value to YOU. If you’ve used a tool for a while, and it no longer has value for you… it’s okay to stop using that tool. Even if many other people are just discovering it, you don’t have to use that tool.
While you’re making those decisions about what holds value for you, please try to remember that others will have different needs and will value different things. They will be at different stages of readiness… and that’s okay. I’ve found that it’s easier to bring people along with you when you don’t treat them like n00bs.