Unlearning Teacher Instincts


(Sorry if this got emailed twice… I am not sure what happened but this post has ended up back in my draft folder and doesn’t seem to be on the blog anymore, so I am clicking publish again…?)

As I continue my #OneWord2018 quest of being more “open” I am having some tough thoughts today.

Unlearning “How to be a Teacher 101” is hard!

I am definitely being more open with my students and seeing amazing benefits. Sometimes, though, this still is not my first instinct.

Today’s example… I have been feeling the need for our reflection wall to progress to a digital version so they can really see their progression and export it at the end of the year as an iBook to show their grade 4 teacher, etc.

Currently, this is what our reflection wall/window looks like:


This is working fine, but we couldn’t see where we were, where we have progressed to, or where we wanted to go.

With Apple Pages new update, we are able to collaborate and also export as an ebook. Page A was made to mimic our existing reflection wall which is fine – a continuum of gradual independence for a certain skill (thank you to @OrenjiButa for the art work we have been using all year for reflecting on ATLs and gradual release of independence which we took ownership over by choosing meaningful descriptors from other classes). I had two versions of page B which I could not decide between. One very structured page (my first version) and one blank page with the title of reflections and goals where they could choose how to reflect.

Version One:

Screen Shot 2018-04-11 at 10.23.40

Version Two:

Screen Shot 2018-04-11 at 10.23.26

Because I am trying so hard to allow room for agency, part of me was saying to use the second version. But I wasn’t quite sure. I was asking teachers and kept thinking about it… until embarrassingly late in the game I finally thought to ask the students.

They surprised me. They want choice, they want flexibility, but their VOICE right now was telling me they wanted structure for this book. They thought it was much more clear. There was a small part of them worrying about running out of room with this option, but I told them we can deal with that when we get there. Their ownership of this is growing, and if I had chosen the more open-ended version for them like my “push for agency” self was trying to say they would have been lost (I could see the panic and confusion on their faces when they saw the second version).

For now, we chose structure for this particular activity. If we had started this at the beginning of the year I could see how it might change into the second version, but with three months left of the school year I am not sure. If we need to change, we will change. I have made pages for all ATLs and also for the areas which will appear on their report card at the end of the year, hoping their reflections will assist and align with the report card process.

My takeaway for today is to keep trying to make a habit of asking them first. I am well on my way but this could have been a big loss for us, had I not asked them. It is hard. I try things myself. I then push to collaborate but still my first instinct is still the adults of the school. Not the ones using the tool I am creating. I am growing.

How are you unlearning your teacher instincts?

Also posted on innovativeinquirers.weebly.com

2 thoughts on “Unlearning Teacher Instincts

  1. Hi Cindy,
    I love this! I think it’s a great way to promote student agency too. What excites me is taking this and getting some vertical teaching groups together and defining what the ATL look like in each year group in order to really track student learning over time.
    Thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Cindy,
    I can certainly say that this blog and the posts and comments so far have certainly helped me consider how I can unlearn everything I have experienced as a student and as a teacher up until now.
    I have been pushed to improve my practice and question WHY I was doing what was ‘expected’.
    I have also found the courage to take the steps I need to ensure student agency is at the top of my list of goals each day. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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