7 Teacher = Student: A Communicative Property

Gillian Benedetti

When I first saw my name on the CPLC list, I was thrilled to know that I will work with a dedicated team that is set out to be innovative in a number of ways. I should experience an incredible time with this learning community. As a teacher and a life-long learner, I was ready to open my teacher toolbox and add to other teaching practices I have amassed – or so I thought. I was ready to be a spongy student – just not in the same way I assumed. What I did not anticipate was how the experience denatured some of my existing perspectives and helped me evolve in ways I did not originally imagine.

I had to redefine the meaning of support and student agency when it comes to student learning. The idea of supporting students to learn goes without saying, right? Maybe not so much for me- at least not before I had this epiphany. For a long time, I thought one of the more optimal ways of supporting students was a delicate combination of my tactfully meeting students where they are and providing them with plenty of scaffolds to foster their growth. In other words, I paved learning paths when and/or where needed. With that said, a number of CPLC/TWP chats pushed that what I thought would be idyllic-looking and idyllic-sounding supports out of balance for me. Homeostasis as I knew it was no more. A new definition and perspective is crucial in reaching a new equilibrium again. Perhaps I should allow students to practice, and ultimately master, self-regulated learning by pulling back my scaffolds and handing over student agency in exchange. This idea of withdrawing supports is not making them readily available without first encouraging and promoting student self-directed learning. It is quite okay to be equipped with scaffolds and be ready to employ them when necessary, however, I need to allow students the opportunity to own and find their ways of learning as opposed to paving paths for them from the very beginning. The idea of student agency is real- I should nurture this development and not impede its progress.

I had to widen and deepen my comfort zone and tap into my courage to risk and fail (and try again). I avoided taking risks at times due to a fear of potential failure so I create comfort zones for myself as it relates to course building. Part of this comfort zone included knowing most of who, what, when, where, why, and how things happen as well as having plan A’s and plan B’s for my course content. Since planning the TWP course involved a higher than usual level of uncertainties (a.k.a. potential risks/failures), I had to step outside my box and not be pressed against the outside of the said box. Ha! The reality is that my comfort zone should exist far beyond my own perceived limitations. While I strived for a culture of error in my students’ learning environments, I should design for such culture within my own. It is okay to try and perhaps fail! Admittedly, I was unable to completely step away from the outskirts of the box but I did carve out opportunities that forced me to try. My first attempt of widening my comfort zone involved building intentional blank spots for student-driven agenda’s on the course calendar. Another step in deepening this comfort zone included an introspective study of “me.” Where might I find a safe space/time to risk and potential fail, and try again? The idea sounded seamless in concept and I will find out the results in its execution as fall 2019 unfolds.

My role as a teacher continues to be a student first. Perhaps I can be a “good” student, which results in being an effective teacher. While the semester has not yet started, I added varied teaching perspectives and underwent a mini evolution. I hope that I will continue to grow and lead by example. The ultimate hope would be to impart the idea of positive outcomes for student agency and the courage to risk. My students will be my teachers and I am not sure if they are aware. Stay tuned. Thank you CPLC and TWP for your support! Happy Fall 2019!

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