During our annual spring in-service for our teachers yesterday, I conducted a session that introduced a few active learning strategies. Among these teachers, whose ages varied from around thirty to nearly seventy, it was very rewarding to see them eagerly join together in learning new methods and sharing examples of how they could use them in their own classrooms. After forty minutes or so of demonstrating these ideas, I asked them to share examples of other activities they’d used.
Our biology teacher had been to a conference not long ago and picked up some interesting kits. These kits included colored plastic pieces that snap together to form models of molecular structure. Each element was made in a different color. He paired us up, handed us bags of pieces and then gave us instructions for a discovery learning goal. Some folks were able to finish more quickly than others but it seemed that everyone enjoyed the challenge of figuring out how to join hydrogen and oxygen to the base compound. We were all somewhat amused and pleased to find out we’d just built simple sugar molecules.
What was particularly striking to me, though, was to witness this biology teacher’s demeanor in sharing the activity. I’m pretty sure that he has been teaching for at least twenty years but he had the enthusiasm of someone fresh out of grad school. Everything about him during that ten minutes–his voice, body language, facial expression and his mannerisms–showed clearly that he has not lost his joy of learning and teaching.
That is one of the hallmarks of good teachers and, in fact, is a common trait of successful people in every vocation. Throughout their careers and throughout their lives, they continue searching for new knowledge, new ideas, new techniques. They are always open to the possibility of better.
And they usually find it, too.