Avoiding Hypocrisy, Being a Lifelong Learner

-Eric Fitton

When I was in high school I quoted my mother a proverb endorsing moderation. I was taken aback by how strongly she disagreed with the entire sentiment. Apparently this clash has been ongoing for thousands of years. Cicero tells us, “Never go to excess, but let moderation be your guide.” However, Oscar Wilde says, “Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.” Plato, William Shakespeare, Jean-Jacques Rousseau fall in the camp of moderates while Anne Sexton, Thomas Paine and Jack Kerouac find fault with moderation. Depending on context I can easily see how moderation can become a problem. That said, my view of myself as a lifelong learner, especially as it relates to teaching, firmly lands on the side of moderation.

I feel that instruction is effective in my classroom. I do not want to throw a number of new technologies and strategies in my classroom without first thinking deeply about the new techniques. I certainly plan on trying new technologies, but always starting with a limited number of classes and evaluating how they are working before expanding them. My classroom is certainly not perfect, I am looking to improve as a teacher. However, at this point I am looking for incremental changes and improvements. If it takes a year or longer to make a systematic change I am willing to take the time. I want consistency and solid instruction during any transition. This is the first way moderation applies to my future plans.

I also want to consider the fact that excess is not the only other possible extreme compared to moderation. Instead of attending every professional development, trying every technique discussed in a TED talk and using every piece of software possible, the other extreme is to do the same thing year after year and trying nothing new. Moderation means that I am a lifelong learner. I do need to watch a TED talk, go to a conference in the summer and try a piece of software a colleague uses successfully.

Moderation to me, as a lifelong learner with regards to education, means that I am keeping a work and homelife balance. I am trying new ideas but I am doing so deliberately. That I attend professional development, ideally in the summer, but I think critically before implementing ideas into my own classroom. I do not want to stagnate as a teacher, but I do not want to try so much new that my students are deprived a better education.

The question then becomes, what do I do so that I do not stagnate. The first two days at taking classes towards my MAET degree I had created a Glogster account, made a Prezi and looked at Google Sketchup. I have a solid background in technology; however, I was surprised by how much had changed and grown in the half dozen years since I had earned my teaching certificate. If I had been thinking about the TPaCK model, I may very well have thought about having students blog in classes. Eventually I would have heard of Glogster through either my students or another teacher. That said, I realized that I need to do something to make sure I am thinking about incorporating good ideas that I do know about. Moreover, I need to spend time and effort finding tools and practices that I can incorporate without depending on taking classes.

I need to carve out time to do research and to reflect. The last two summers this was done by attending Michigan State more than full time. In addition, a large part of the research was done by taking the class. I also took classes during the school year and am sure that I will be reading and talking to colleagues during the school year. That said, my plan is to make sure that I used my increased time in the summer to research and reflect. I will be breaking down the research four different ways.

  1. Books
  2. Online
  3. Professional Learning Network
  4. Professional Development

I still like traditional books. I plan on reading books; however, I expect that the books will very much be the view from a thousand feet. Books should help me reflect but will not be helpful in regards to technology. Reading blogs, looking at software reviews and watching highly rated TED talks will help fill in the details. A software review will probably not discuss teaching strategies but it will help me keep abreast of changes in technology. Being a member of NCTM and attending professional developments in the summer are another way to learn new information. However, one of the best aspects of attending MSU was making personal connections to other professionals. This is how I learned about flipping a classroom. This is how I shared about dynamic geometry software. As I look for iPad applications, I will be starting with my professional learning network and working out to blogs and TED from there.