Take a Risk to Sustain a High Level of Learning

This year I began teaching Python text-based coding to seventh grade students. It has been a big learning experience for all of us, especially me. I know the basics of Python. I can explain for loops, infinite loops, conditionals, variables, functions, expressions, and sensors. I can hack out a few lines and do some of my "own" projects on the Microbit and I can manage to "hack" projects on a Circuit Playground. I know a little bit about artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and can follow along with the some of the basic activities. I have even dabbled in Pi-Tops and wiring my own breadboard; but when it comes to teaching the inquiring minds of seventh graders, it is never enough!

At first, I was nervous about this. I wasn't able to quickly answer all the student's questions. I got a little stressed and frustrated sometimes because it took a lot of in-depth research to find something that should have been simple to answer. I spent a lot of time learning more. Luckily, I have a very patient teaching partner who also takes time to explain things to me. It has been a long eight months of learning and understanding the basics and I know I have a lot more to learn. But, you know what, I am now ok with that now!

It is hard to admit that I am not the expert in what I teach. I have been an expert in what I teach for 20 years, in curriculum design, instructional coaching, science education, educational technology but I am definitely not an expert in programming and coding.

But that is okay. I can say this with a little less reluctant smile now, it is my time to be the learner. It takes confidence, a willingness to 'let go' of control and an understanding in your own self to understand that a good teacher does not need to be the sage on the stage to teach well. It is important to have content knowledge and a solid of understanding of how to teach, but I do not need to know everything!

In a recent post by George Couros, author of "The Innovator's Mindset", I was reminded of the importance of learning and that I cannot let my limited knowledge of a subject limit my students' ability to learn more, inquire deeper and ask harder questions. And it is equally ok for me to learn with my students the 'hard stuff'. (And on a side note, it is also a lot easier to have very creative learning partners to push you to your limits!)

It is my students' inquisitive minds that push me to learn things that are not always in my "Python for Beginners" book or the online python and data science courses. It is their questions and desires to make new gadgets and coding projects that push me to help them find the answers. 

So this year, I take risks! I take risks in not knowing all the answers. I leave my comfort zone in order to learn. I take a risk and struggle a little to ensure that I provide the best opportunity for my students. And I encourage you to take risks and struggle a little in learning a new skill.


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