Reflective inquiry came to me in a new form today. I spent the day reading and commenting on my participants final reflective journals. Through their reflections I got the chance to reflect on my own beliefs around teaching and learning. How’s that for meta!
The following comment helped me explore my beliefs around experiential learning:
I know some students (…) dislike some challenging and creative tasks, and just like to be passive, staying in continuous lectures. I thought I was doing them a favor, especially to the seniors applying for the SAT, while I tried to not give them burden except for memorizing vocabulary or grammar. I am thinking about making them write at least one essay a term but I am afraid that there would be a lot of objection. Josette has an excellent talent in making her students do anything she wants them to do. She really has the know-how. One of the most powerful things of her is to provide a comfortable atmosphere. She does not push, but we do it. I think I have to learn her “sneaky” skill to make students who fear doing something new manage to do it. Because of the prospect of replacing SAT English with National English Ability Test (NEAT), there would be an increase in the need for writing and speaking in class.
My “sneakiness” (a term I coined to describe the way I try to instruct my participants beyond what is on the surface of my lesson) is connected to my belief in learning. I believe we learn when we “do”. When we do something, we feel something. We either feel something positive such as success, or we feel something negative, like disappointment. The disappointment may push us to try again in order to succeed. The success will encourage us to keep going. If we don’t “do”, we risk not feeling the feeling we get when we “do”. When we learn passively, we don’t create. If we don’t create, I believe feelings are suffocated. Powerful learning comes from creation. It may not be easy, and we can definitely hurt ourselves in the process, but when you realize how well you learn when you “do”, it is hard to return to passive learning.
I believe this may be what my participant has experienced in our training program. Although she finds comfort in listening to lectures, she may realize that true learning happens when an opportunity for creation is facilitated.
When I teach, I try to create an environment that encourages a willingness to try something new. I try to create a space where mistakes are permitted because I know that mistakes support learning. This is the beauty of experiential learning. The atmosphere I work to invoke is one where laughter, tears, confusion, and clarity are always welcome. Perhaps it is in this range of feelings that the secret of my “sneaky” teaching ways bubbles up. By allowing them to feel, I allow them to create.