Embracing my “Learniness”

This post was inspired by John Green’s The Paper Town Academy Tedtalk at TED Indianapolis in 2012.

Is “learniness” a word?  I don’t know, but it’s quickly becoming one of my slogans.  Over the past couple weeks, I’ve had the privilege of sharing my practice of using primary sources in the classroom.  In my professional teaching career (this excludes student teaching obviously), I have never used a textbook.  As a naive teacher candidate in college, after reading Lies My Teacher Told Me by James Loewen I adamantly opposed textbooks in the history classroom because of bias, inaccuracy, etc…but as an overwhelmed student teacher I turned to the textbook as a life-preserver.  Now I don’t avoid the textbook because of it’s errors…I don’t use textbooks because there is more valuable material available.  Why should I further disconnect my students from the real world by providing them with another middleman to the event/topic/content?  Bear with me as I walk you through my journey toward ditching the textbook.

Learniness is the desire to construct knowledge directly from the source that you seek out and to relate it to your world as a global citizen… Ms. Ulmer

I taught abroad for a couple of years…very little resources were available so I had to get creative.  It was a lot of work at first, but the search for interactive and engaging lessons and activities became a habit.  I curated my own set of “go-to” ideas and used data I collected from formative, summative, unobstrusive assessments…you get the idea.  Coming back to the U.S., I began working in an urban charter school.  Again, limited resources to work with…I started to connect the expanded world I had access to via Peace Corps and my love for Skype to turn my students into “citizens of the world.”  Now, I teach in a rural public school that just finished its 2nd year of being 1:1 ( every student has a MacBook Air).  Technology has been my newest source of discovery, and my life without a textbook got much easier as well as exponentially more challenging.

So where does “learniness” come into all of this?  My essential question when developing my PD session for “Teaching without the Textbook” was this –> What does the textbook do for students?  Am I saying that there is no place for textbooks in a classroom?  NO!!  I am simply trying to convince others that textbooks are not curriculum!  They are supplementary, secondary source for students to use to construct their own knowledge.  Learniness!  I’m in the business of teaching my students how to learn, explore, analyze, question…not read, regurgitate, and move on.  Primary sources allow me to be the learner along with my students.  We all experience the world around us differently, and by utilizing primary sources and select secondary sources I’m better able to differentiate and build rapport with the learners in my classroom.  Learniness

I’m currently in a book study with other educators in my state.  We are reading Meenoo Rami’s Thrive: 5 Ways to (Re)Invigorate Your Teaching.  The second chapter deals with networking, and it hit me that my whole life adults have been telling me that networking is a key to success.  I didn’t really get it when my world was my classroom, bedroom, county, etc.  Now I get it.  I wish I had been opened up to all the possibilities and opportunities before going off to college to “find” myself.  We are amid a revolution in education right now because students have the access to the world at their fingertips.  They must embrace their “learniness” so they don’t become sheep to what everyone on social media is pushing toward them.  As educators, we must embrace our “learniness” and understand that our students have things to teach us as well…our classrooms should be a learning community!  As the Tenth Doctor would say, “Allons-y”  — in non-Whovian speak – Let’s Go!


What I’ve learned about teaching…from golf.

the game of golf

If you know me…you’ll know I love golf.  I wrote several high school papers on golf, I played golf in college, and when I’m not paying attention I may even unknowingly work on my golf swing out of habit.

So how does all this apply to my teaching?

Well, you see, I believe that golf is a microcosm of life and thus it can also serve as such in the classroom.  I remain positive because I know there are days I’ll be playing out of the rough.  Is that the fault of the course, or the golf ball, or the green?  NO!  As a golfer I must be reflective on how my swing and my mental game effect my score…; As a teacher, I must reflect on how my attitude, preparation, questioning, assessments influence the work of the students.

It’s easy to get into complaining mode and play the blame game.  Don’t give in to the negativity!!  The cliche quote “Golf is 90% mental…” is catchy and misleading, but it’s not entirely wrong.  Like golf, the mentality you have in the classroom is contagious.  Create a positive learning environment and understand that, as the teacher, the climate of the classroom begins with YOU!!

the game of golf

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