Learning Cliffs

Everyone’s learning curve looks a little different. We expect this for our students and make adjustments based on readiness, development, prior knowledge, and even preference. Why is it so hard to remember that adults need this, too?

I’m part of a school district who has a lot of learning to do when it comes to using 21st century tools. For many years the resources simply weren’t available and gaps formed in our knowledge that weren’t addressed. Learning curves steepened and what was once a gentle rise of change became shear cliffs with their tops obscured in fog the longer those gaps went unaddressed.

We teachers expect much from our students, but we expect so much more of ourselves. Failure, weakness, and being a novice are not comfortable for us when we are expected to be our professional best. In many ways, we feel as though someone has dropped us at the foot of that cliff with a pile of climbing equipment and said: Go for it. Maybe some of us have been climbing before and know the difference between belay and rappel; maybe the closest some of us have been to climbing a cliff has been standing on a chair to reach a high shelf.

Today my grade level team met to try something new with shared files and folders. For some of us, we had already started exploring. Others were opening files for the first time. The tension and frustration in the room was palpable, but what made me the most proud to be part of my team is that not one person said, “I give up.” A few scouts had already been part of the way up the mountain–testing the footholds, warning those who followed along about our mistakes, where we’d slipped and fallen. We trusted one another to help one another as we learned together. No one falls and gets left behind.

It might sound like a silly thing to those educators with experience who have been using Google Apps or Dropbox or any number of so-called 21st century tools for years–those who have summited Everest and barely remember the fearful, halting first attempts they made; but for us, the newbies, this was a victory. We’re a little scraped and sore, but we’re climbing. Together.

Cross-posted on Sanderling.

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