Tortoise Brained Learning

Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better”. This quote from Maya Angelou holds true no matter what stage of  teaching  you are at. Too often teachers feel pressured to constantly be moving their best practice forward before the last component has been consolidated into their everyday practice.

Over the course of my career I have evolved from a Hare Brained Learner to a Tortoise Brained Learner. A Hare Brained Learner is one who is constantly delving into new areas without going through the process needed to implement theory into best practice. I attended multiple workshops, almost everyone our board offered. I would see so many good ideas in practice, take notes on them, put them in a file, give them a try for a week or two and then most often let them fizzle out in that file. I was off to the next workshop, new idea or teaching practice.

My life as a Tortoise Brained Learner is much more manageable and is producing a far greater change in my day-to-day pedagogical practice. I have learned that my personal learning cycle is about two years. From the initial exposure to a new idea (e.g. mind mapping) through further research, personal experimentation, classroom experimentation and finally a part of my practice where I no longer even think about it as a new idea it takes me about two years. Thus my shift from quantity to quality professional learning has resulted in me being a much more pedagogically sound teacher.

It is not possible, nor reasonable for teachers to be constantly in a state of change. My advice is to develop an Annual Learning Plan that focuses in on one or two key areas that you are both interested in and know will enhance your journey toward best practice.

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Updated: December 5, 2015 — 1:06 am

The Author

Mike Beetham

I am currently entering my 32nd year of teaching and work with the Waterloo Region District School Board in an area behaviour class. I am actively involved with ETFO at both the local and provincial level. My passions are my family, teaching, the outdoors and personal fitness.

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