Often as educators, we are both directly and indirectly asked to consider our boundaries – the confines of our teaching and learning space(s), the confines of our roles and the confines of our professional responsibilities. Unique to our situation is the variety of policy and regulations that suggest where these boundaries should lie. Lines drawn in the sand, educators (the inspiring innovators) are often pushed to think within boxes that confine our thoughts, actions and next steps. Tricky indeed, here I am considering creating our own structures to work within, our own places to teach and learn, our own lines in the sand.
As a teacher, I continually ask students to inspire their learning based on what matters most to them – their interests, their questions, their likes and dislikes. We pose students with models of inquiry to take their learning and run with it in the formation of their own principles, theories and understandings. We ask students to defy the boundaries of what learning means to them (a conventional, one-way communicative framework) towards spaces that mimic the collaborative, creative and personal environments of the outside world – this is fantastic premise and a great way to engage our learners in today’s complex world. But – what are we (as educators) doing?
I might come from a different school of thought, or may be different all together (as we all are), but I think we can learn a thing or two from what we ask of our students. It’s a complex discussion to formulate what the role of the new teacher and new learner look like – so I won’t do that here – but it’s interesting to think of the parallels in our expectations of our learners and of ourselves. I work in a way that moves laterally and is linearly constructed. I plan, I prepare, I construct and I execute. Yet still, I offer myself spaces of deep thinking and reflection, spaces devoted to an organic process of personal learning. These spaces take shape as the events I attend, the articles I read and the groups I am a part of (all fuelled by a little caffeine).
This means I take the time to structure into my schedule opportunities where I am immersed in content I am thinking about, inquiring into new ideas, within new spaces, with new people. I challenge myself as both a thinker and an educator to engage with ideas, people and spaces whose mere existence challenge the roots and purpose of that which I work (each and every day). To me, this is important, this is real, this is Personally Professional.
I’m a teacher. In my mind, my duty is to learn. As a job requirement, I am always thinking and that thinking has the potential to be static within the boundaries I work within. By taking on a Personally Professional approach, I am merging my personal aspirations for knowledge and inquiry with that of my professional responsibility for teaching and learning. It’s a wonderful mix, that makes perfect sense to me. In this framework, I give myself opportunities to network, to collaborate, to develop projects and initiatives that may have never been if not for my efforts. I’m taking steps outside of those lines drawn in the sand and along the way I’m making my own – temporal boundaries that can be drawn again and again.