Powerful professional learning; what if?

Powerful professional learning; what if?

One of the questions I find myself asking as I work with teachers is what if? What if we engaged all students in hands-on science? What if all students had the opportunity to have their learning needs met? What if…?

Over the last few years I have had many opportunities to work with teachers. Our conversations have been varied-from science to differentiation to assessment-we have covered it all! Of course these conversations have filled my head with lots of  what if questions!

Many of the groups I have worked with, like the one in the picture above, have literally soaked up everything we have done together! The above group were middle school teachers I had the pleasure of working with in the summer of 2016 at the CTA workshop at JMU. As we spent a week together doing science, it was amazing to watch their minds race and the ideas to fly around the room. As something new was given to them, the question “what if” begin to germinate.What if we did the mentos and diet coke at the beginning of the year to get kids excited and then reuse it again during our matter unit? What if we used the rockets lesson to teach students how to write directions? What if…

What if all students had teachers who got to engage in professional learning that inspired them to try something different in their classrooms? Sadly I know not every teacher gets to experience professional development opportunities that go beyond the sit and get type of session. I also know not every teacher feels they have something they can learn. But what if?

What if all teachers engaged in professional learning every day, every week, or every year that caused them to change one aspect of how they taught? What if the changes they implemented made their teaching ever better? What if every single science teacher in this country engaged students in continual, hands-on learning experiences? If teachers did these things would we be so overrun with students who believed they could go into a STEM field? What if????

These ladies and the countless other teachers I have been blessed to work with have reminded me how powerful the work we do in our classroom really is to the health of our communities. As I have listened to their many stories, they have reminded me why I went into teaching. I went into teaching to make a difference in a child’s life because other teachers had made a difference in mine. I wanted young people to see the beauty and joy in learning how the world works.

I believe our jobs as teachers is to inspire the next generation to question, to seek answers, and to ultimately make our world a better place. I know as teachers we would all love for all of our students to come to us in pretty little packages with beautiful bows ready to learn. But the truth of the matter is this-life is hard and some of our students are coming to us with packages that have been torn or broken. They are the ones that need our inspiration the most. They are the ones who need us to engage them in learning experiences that takes the focus off of the brokenness in their lives and refocuses them on developing their ability to inquire and see they can make a difference in this world.

What if all students had a teacher who saw beyond the stinky clothes or the hard exterior? What if all students had a teacher who saw the potential trapped inside their heads and worked to find the right key to unlock their potential? What if??

I don’t have all the answers just yet, but I am going to keep asking what if in order to continue challenging myself to seek solutions!

Thanks to all of the teachers who inspire me and who continue to inspire their students to ask WHAT IF!

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