Quiet Learning

Posted: 31st January 2016 by kkeerybi in Uncategorized

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how adults learn best.  We are all aware of the trends and changes in how we teach and how we facilitate learning opportunities for students, and I think these are all very positive changes.  I love the different ways innovators are providing for students to think, create, collaborate, hypothesize, invent, experiment, and play.

But educators, I have to ask.  What opportunities are you given to play, invent, create, collaborate and think?

Thinking and learning is not just for kids, but often how we approach professional development is with a checklist of things that we say we shouldn’t be focusing on with students.  Limited/no choice, “sit ‘n get” lectures, responsibility on the individual to apply and reflect their new knowledge on their own (which, we all know, is difficult to get to, even if we are motivated).  I’ve participated in these types of learning opportunities for many years.  Heck, I’ve planned and facilitated more than my share of these too.  There are times, I think, when this is the most efficient way to deliver information.  There are fewer times, I think, when it is the most effective way to change practice.

It got me thinking about the different learning opportunities that I’ve experienced in the last few weeks. I’ve had lots of varied opportunities to learn. What learning worked for me?  Where have I applied my learning?  My reflection surprised me.

Where I’ve learned the most was not in the lectures, workshops, professional readings or official collaborations.  Nope.  Not by a long shot.  My greatest learning this month came from a series of quiet, impromptu conversations I had with several colleagues.  Many were with people who have been educators and administrators for longer than I have, or have experienced different variables in their roles than I have.  Some of them I share many leadership qualities with while others had me wishing that I could do and be what they are as leaders and educators.

One by one, my quiet teachers sat with me and we just talked.  We chatted about how things were going in our schools:  our current struggles and recent successes, where we wanted to go next in our work, what we still needed to work on.  There was no agenda, no protocol of conversation; just professionals talking with one another freely.  It was so simple, but I took away new nuggets to apply from each of them.

I would love to see more opportunities for educators to play, experiment, collaborate, inquire, make and learn. But I think we also have to value the unscripted, quiet conversations – in person, on line – that happen between professionals.  Those conversations might give us the push we need to try something, the encouragement we need when we are running very low, or the helpful hints to apply new learning we have but don’t know what to do with.

This was just a snapshot, from a very small cohort of one, but I know it works for me.  I will be sure to seek out more of these quiet conversations.  What works for you?

Thinking About Maker Spaces

Posted: 16th January 2016 by kkeerybi in Uncategorized

There is so much good stuff going on in education these days, isn’t there? I’m excited when I get to walk into a classroom or lurk a learning space through someone’s blog or tweets and see the innovative ways students are learning. One trend that I’ve been thinking about is the inclusion of maker spaces in classrooms and in programming.
Maker spaces vary greatly in space, resources, expectation and age or level of participant. As far as I can see, there is no one-size-fits-all model for a maker space or how to use it. I like that. I like how it can vary depending on the facilitator, the participants and what resources you have. If you don’t have a 3D printer and only have one table’s worth of space to dedicate, you can still have a maker space that stretches students to think innovatively, creatively and collaboratively, and create something meaningful to them. That, it seems to me, are the common variables in maker spaces: an allowance for innovative thought and a means to apply that thinking.
When trends take off like this, it always has me thinking about the why. Why is it that there is such an insurgence in maker spaces in education? What is it about our education system that was lacking that required this move? Why now?
I think educators have realized how important a role student advocacy and student-led inquiry and learning is to provide our young thinkers opportunities to hone skills that will serve them throughout their lives (problem solving, innovative thinking, critical awareness and analysis, resourcefulness, collaboration, creativity, communication…I’m sure there are others). I see how maker spaces can provide a venue for some of those rich experiences.
The why now and what are the gaps questions are a little more complex. On the one hand, as our lives and roles in the world have changed drastically in the last generation, particularly due to the explosion of technology and it’s uses, educators have shifted practices to meet the new needs of learners. Now that everyone basically carries a powerful computer in their pocket all of the time, we can devote less of our time and energy to learning tasks that can be done by a device. Need to know the capital of Turkey? A search engine will provide that for you, along with a synopsis of Turkey’s history and geography in less than a second. As knowledge patterns change, humans jobs and roles have changed. We all recognize that and education is slowly shifting to align itself more to those unique roles that humans still do better than machines: problem solving, innovative thinking, critical awareness and analysis, resourcefulness, collaboration, creativity. Does this list look familiar?  Maker spaces help to fill that gap.
That’s part of the why now, but I think there is another gap we are trying to fill. All of those complex human roles are not, in fact, anything new. Resourcefulness, creativity, critical analysis and the rest are not unique to the 21st century. Think about how resourceful people were during World War One to find ways to survive. Or how the creativity of Leonardo da Vinci’s thinking led to innovations in art, technology and science in the 15th century. (By the way, I just googled da Vinci to recall what century he lived. I’m not ashamed to note where computers and the internet are smarter than me.) Consider the critical analysis of someone like Socrates even farther back in history and how his methods of dialogue continue to challenge the patterns of thinking and teaching even today.
What I’m trying to say is that all of these complex ways of thinking are not 21st century inventions. But for some reason, our 21st century learners have not had the same opportunities to explore and practice these, which has led to the need for maker spaces.
I think, perhaps, the ease of life we have in our modern times has forced us to create opportunities through things like maker spaces. When something breaks, we go out and buy a new one instead of figuring out how to fix it: who fixes vacuums anymore? We create structured opportunities for play for our children in big plastic-filled “play lands” instead of kicking them out the back door after breakfast with nothing more than a peanut butter sandwich in their pocket and one rule: come home when it gets dark (the whole topic of letting kids invent play and avoid boredom through sheer exposure to environment and a lack of constant adult direction is worthy of its own blog post, but that’s for another time). We seek to replicate products of design instead of innovate: why build a better chair when you can build an Eames knock off with less effort and more profit?
You have to admire the irony in it: humans roles have grown increasingly intellectually complex as technology has taken over some of the more rote, physical and automated roles we previously had to spend our time doing. But at the same time, humans relying on the advances in technology have made us soft and less skilled for the roles we now find ourselves needing to fill.
Is your head spinning yet? Mine too.
If anything, thinking about the why has just led me to understand how important it is that we do provide learners (students, educators and anyone else who wants to learn and keep pace with progress) with opportunities to tinker, to try out new ideas and new materials, to create freely, to communicate their ideas to seek feedback and share learning, to try to make something impossible be now humanly possible.
Don’t we owe it to our 21st century da Vincis to give them those opportunities?

What I Learned from a TV Cooking Competition

Posted: 3rd January 2016 by kkeerybi in Uncategorized

Over the break, I got to spend some time with family relaxing and enjoying being lazy.  One of the lazy activities we engaged in is binge watching a television show I hadn’t seen before.  Finding a new (to us) show that is vacation-worthy and is appropriate and will interest two weary adults, three teenagers and one ten year old is always tricky, but we are some pretty die-hard foodies so we settled on MasterChef Junior.

If you haven’t seen it, MasterChef Junior has young home-chefs aged 8 to 12 taking on cooking challenges, being critiqued and judged by well-known professional chefs before challenge winners are declared and losers are sent home.

I may have been on vacation, but I couldn’t turn off the educator in me.  During the episodes, I saw some pretty fabulous learning conditions and watched the young chefs show some pretty remarkable learning behaviours.  Since my family wouldn’t have appreciated my observations, I’ve saved them all for this blog post.  Hopefully, you won’t mock me like my family would.  Here’s some of what I saw.

  • Kids can rise to the occasion when we let them take risks.  I watched all of these young contestants adeptly use gas stoves, sharp knives, mandolins, and a wide variety of dangerous appliances, even when they could barely see over the counter.  Have you ever watched an eight year old independently flambe something?  It’s pretty impressive.  I wonder sometimes when we stop children from risky behaviours (as a side note, can someone please tell me just how is climbing up the slide risky?) it says more about us than it does about the children.  I’m not arguing for a free-for-all, in fact, in one episode where one of the young chefs accidentally lit her pan on fire and flames shot four feet in the air, an adult did intervene…calmly…and then a) modelled what to do when that happens, b) explained why it happened, c) explained how to make sure it doesn’t happen again, d) encouraged the chef, e) let her get back to cooking without further help.  Which she did.  She didn’t appear to be scared or feel chastised but just took it all in as part of the learning experience.  When we chase kids away from experiences too early, what learning opportunities do we take away from them?  What do we teach them about taking risks?
  • Competition is tough but a good thing.  Have you heard about the different sports leagues that no longer keep score or declare winners/losers?  It makes me sad that we take those experiences away from kids because, like it or not, those kids will grow up to experience competition in life and how you deal with winning and losing says a lot about a person.  (Although, I also wonder if those sports leagues take away the scoring because of the way the parents in the stands handle winning and losing vicariously.  Maybe it isn’t really about the kids.)  Not everything needs to be, nor should be, a competition but there are great learning opportunities when they do happen.  In this show, I saw these kid chefs working really hard to win, being intensely proud when a win occurred, encouraging their competitors when they won/lost, and being enthusiastic about the entire process.  They showed quality behaviours as competitors, whether they won or lost.  I’m not too worried about how they will act when they find themselves, say, in competition as adults for a coveted job.  Regardless of the outcome, they’ll know how to handle themselves well.
  • Kids can be creative and resourceful.  It didn’t matter what the challenge was, all of the young chefs had the freedom to use their skills to go about the task however it worked for them.  They had choice about the resources they used, how they used their time, and what they chose to focus on to play up their strengths.  Even when the task encouraged them to end with the same product, these kids got there in a variety of ways.  And this was allowed, even encouraged.  When their choice maybe turned out not to be as successful as they had hoped, the judges would provide feedback and encourage the kids to reflect, so that they learned from their triumphs and from their mistakes.  That leads me to the next observation.
  • Good teachers ask questions and encourage reflection.  The judges on this show are highly skilled professionals who could probably outcook the competitors, based on their years of experience alone.  However, they spent a lot of time:  a) observing what the kids were doing, b) asking them questions about what they were doing and why, c) encouraging their young chefs to thoughtfully consider and explain their choices and decisions, d) asking the chefs to reflect on the feedback that they were provided.  And what is even better is that the judges were genuinely interested in what the chefs said and tried.  The questions and feedback didn’t seem to be just sneaky ways of testing the chefs for the right answer.

This next one was my very favourite observation.

  • Even in a competition, learning can be collaborative.  Chef against chef in a fierce competition.  You would expect to see glaring eyes, attempts at sabotage, heckling, trash talking, winning-by-all-means-necessary, right?  Actually, no.  What I saw was:
    • chefs encouraging one another, even when in direct competition
    • openly admiring the skills of their competitors (and voicing these admirations to those competitors and others)
    • cheering one another on
    • respecting competitors, win or loss
    • helping out a competitor when it is needed
    • recognizing that they can learn as much from the experience of their competitors as they can from their own experiences
    • enjoying the camaraderie of a shared learning experience

What does all of this mean to education?  I’m not sure, but I liked the reminders it drew for me in my vacation musings.  Even if you don’t watch the show but you are concerned with education, I wonder what kind of connections you could draw from my observations.  We’re about to head into a new term.  I wonder what we can learn about the experiences we provide for our students.  Are these just vacation musings or could they help us set new goals for our students and the learning experiences we provide them?

Thanks for reading and humouring me in a way my family would have never let me while we watched Masterchef Junior.

One Word 2016

Posted: 2nd January 2016 by kkeerybi in Uncategorized

It is a new year.  Every educator knows that this comes halfway through the real year, but it is a good opportunity to stop, reflect and goal set anyway.  This week my twitter feed has been riddled with posts from other educators about their one word goals for the year; something they personally would like to work on for the next twelve months.  I didn’t participate last year but enjoyed listening in on others’ work.  This year (as fitting with my goal, as you’ll see), I thought I would jump in and join the one word club.

My one word is stretch.  Let me explain.

I’m a little on the short side….for a ten year old, so for an adult, I am really short.  This means that I have had a lifetime of having to stretch to reach for things that taunt me beyond my fingertips.  I have a lot of tricks up my sleeve now to help extend my reach:  I climb on counters, I use my cane to pull things down from upper shelves in stores, I drag stools and chairs around my house regularly.  Physically stretching to get what I want has just become a daily routine for me.  That’s not my goal; I manage that kind of stretch pretty well by now.

I was thinking my goal was more along the lines of taking on challenges that would stretch me professionally and personally instead of physically.  I regularly try new things, and even things that I don’t know the outcome to, but I usually take on challenges at which I know I will eventually be successful.  This year, I want to work on trying to pick challenges that are more, well, challenging.  I think the list will get longer as the year goes on, but here are the metaphorical counters I’m going to start standing on:

  • Announce a scary goal and my progress on it.  I like writing.  It helps me organize my ideas and communicate with people in a way that I’m comfortable with.  But this year I decided to try writing a genre that I never have before.  In the summer, I started writing a book.  More specifically, I started writing a young adult novel.  I’m about 85000 words in and have a bit more to go.  That part was difficult (but, admittedly, fun).  The hard part is coming soon; letting other people read the words I’ve written and provide me with feedback as well as sending it to publishers for consideration.  I’m not sure how I’m going to take criticism, judgement, and possibly, failure.  On the other hand, I don’t think the book will be as good as it could be unless I go through those trials.  It’s going to be a stretch for me.
  • Take on new aspects of being a LEADER.  I’ve been a vice principal for the last two and a half years.  I have been very lucky to work in a vibrant, growing school alongside a great principal, school team and community.  I’ve learned a lot about being a school leader from them.  I’m anticipating, though, that my role will be changing sometime this year and I’ll have to start over with a new school soon.  This is going to be a stretch for me because I really rely on collaboration to make me a better leader.  Paul, the principal I work with now, has been a huge asset for my leadership because we really do collaborate on pretty much all of the school decisions and I think that collaboration has made the decisions better.  There’s a good chance that I would be the only administrator in whatever new school I end up in.  While I am happy to roll up my sleeves and dig into the work, I am worried that I am going to miss that daily collaboration of co-leaders.  Will I be a good enough leader without it?  It’s going to be another big stretch for me.
  • Be an uncomfortable extrovert.  I am a textbook, all-boxes-checked, complete introvert.  I cringe away from attention and am very happy to observe, make quiet moves, work steadily in the background and let others take the spotlight.  In some ways, this is good for a leader.  Not having to be the one at the front means that I am happy to develop shared leadership and hear many voices, ideas and perspectives.  Individual and small group mentoring is definitely a role I do more effectively and comfortably.  However, as I take on some new opportunities (such as those mentioned above), I’m going to have to step into the spotlight more, even if it makes me feel a little sick.  This stretch seems way out of my reach, but I’m pushing a stool up to the counter to try and stretch right now.  It’s going to be a really tall stool.
  • Take on an issue that might make some waves.  In my district, administrators work through a problem of practice with the help of colleagues.  The “problems” vary greatly, but each one is very personal and reflecting on it and trying out different things to affect it help to grow your leadership toolbox.  Being a reflective person, I like this process.  We have our first meeting in a few weeks and I have been thinking about the problem I want to work on.  The thing is, the problem I’m having could be a little controversial, particularly with system leaders.  Do I do it anyway, knowing that it could be beneficial to me (and maybe some of the other leaders in my learning team)?  I think I’ve decided that I do, but it is going to be a stretch.

There will be more, but this is where I’m starting.  The fact that I’ve shared so many specific details in this one post has been the first stretch for me, but it has also been a good one.

Time to stretch.


We All Still Have Some Firsts In Us

Posted: 14th December 2015 by kkeerybi in Uncategorized

It has been interesting in the last year or so to see the number of articles that have come out promoting the allowance of risky behaviors in children.  The idea, of course, is that our children need to learn to be risk takers; to challenge themselves with something new or scary.  This is how we raise children who can problem solve, think deeply and diversely, be compassionate and empathetic, the articles surmise.

I happen to agree.  I wrote a little something about the topic a while ago.  Here it is, if you are interested:  Risky Business

But, where I think the articles may fall a bit short is that they only ever talk about children.

What about us old people?  Can’t we learn a few more things about risk taking?  I think we all probably could stand to stretch ourselves a little.

It’s that time of year when people start to think about resolutions.  Instead of setting goals that are doomed to fail (are you REALLY going to get up and run every morning this winter?  Mmm hmm), why not reflect on what firsts you could have in store for you this year?

First time you travel to …

First time you work as …

First time you volunteer to …

First time you expand your skill repertoire to include…

I have a few firsts I’m considering adding to 2016.  They scare me a little, and I’m pretty sure they will stretch me a lot.

How about you?  What will your firsts in 2016 include?



Take a Breath

Posted: 8th December 2015 by kkeerybi in Uncategorized

I love to snorkle, usually in the warm and colourful waters of the Caribbean.  There is something so peaceful but also invigorating about diving down deep to chase a school of fish, check out a new variety of coral or marvel at the decay of a shipwreck.  My favourite part, though, is not the dive below.  It is that moment, when after holding your breath for as long as you can, you push back to the surface and break through the glassy veneer of the water, clear your snorkle and take that first fresh breath.  I don’t know another feeling I’ve ever experienced that makes me feel that alive….and happy to be alive.

Being in a school reminds me a little of snorkling.  You spend all day checking out everything you can – the sights, the sounds, the conversations – and knocking a few more things off your to-do list.  But, educators, unless we take the time to step away, rise to the surface and take a breath, there is no way we can continue on that way indefinitely.

Take a breath.


What’s Your Vibe?

Posted: 26th November 2015 by kkeerybi in Uncategorized

Have you ever walked into a school and immediately felt a particular vibe or energy? Or maybe it wasn’t so immediate (front foyers and offices as your first stops in a school can be a little off-putting), but maybe after spending a day you walked out of that school thinking: “what a great place to learn” or “I would never let my child go there”.

I think I was oblivious to this personal tone of a school as a classroom teacher, but when I worked in system roles and spent time in many different schools I started to sense it.  That led me to wonder what it is that contributes to the tone of a school? What is it that makes someone comfortable or uncomfortable?  It seems to me that the more comfortable people are there the more likely they are to learn. (I have absolutely no research to back this up but it makes sense, doesn’t it?)

As a school leader, I have thought a lot about what tone I want to see in the school I am in and how I can influence it.  In various ways, this has been a key piece of my professional learning in the last few years.  And while I have not figured out all the ingredients to creating a positive tone in a school, I think I’ve found a few key ones.

It’s OUR school, not my school.

You can’t have one lone fish in a school of fish and you can’t have a single contributor in a school of students. It takes many contributors, many voices, many influences to make a school. The richer the tapestry, the better it is for everyone. A good school leader finds ways to weave all those voices together so everyone plays an important part.


It is one thing to say you respect other voices, opinions and ideas, but it is quite another to show it. You show it in how you listen, react and synthesize decisions.


A smile goes a long way. So does a sincere thank you or an unexpected helping hand. Learning how to shut down negativity without completely ticking off your Negative Nelly is an art form that every leader should master.  We’re in a building with a whole gaggle of kids who are learning. It shouldn’t be too difficult to find something to be positive about.


You have to learn how to simultaneously focus on the big picture and see a school and all its worth presently and in the future, while also also taking time to reflect on those tiny little pieces of celebration that you would miss if you only looked too far off into the horizon.  And a good leader figures out how to share both.

There are probably so many other things that contribute to that nebulous vibe you feel in a school.  How do you make your school a place people want to learn in?


November Thanks

Posted: 5th November 2015 by kkeerybi in Uncategorized

What is it that they say about November?  Ah yes…

No sun – no moon!
No morn – no noon –
No dawn – no dusk – no proper time of day.
No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member –
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds! –
Thomas Hood

It’s a tough month for a teacher.  The shine of the new school year has worn off.  If you are a primary teacher, the looming doom of a class full of snowsuits makes you shudder.  Assessments heat up, bad blood between certain students flares up, and recess duty gets a little chilly.  There are reports, interviews and meetings galore.

Today, I was tweeting about a funny comment my daughter said about her homework, and it resulted in this: tweet_pic


And that got me thinking.  A little thank you often goes a long way.  It is a simple thing to say but probably not said – meaningfully – enough.  I’m going to try to be very conscious during this dreary month to bring a little much-needed cheer to educators I know.  I’m going to try to consider at least one educator each day this month who I can thank for their contribution to the lives of students.  Some of my thanks will be about the educators I work with every day; I am so lucky to work with such an incredible team.  Others will be personal about the people who educate my own kids because thankful parents can make such a difference to hard-working educators.

Is there anyone else thankful for certain educators?  Do you know anyone who has made a difference for students?  Join me in #thankateacher this month and we’ll show Thomas Hood we can bring a little cheerfulness into November.

Taking a Leap

Posted: 28th October 2015 by kkeerybi in Uncategorized

It is possible that I might be considered a wee bit stubborn by some people.  Except those who really know me well would probably say it is more than a “wee bit”.

“I’m not tired.”

“I can do it myself.”

“There is no way THAT is going to happen.”

“You can’t stop me from doing…”.

Those phrases all sound like something a feisty two year old might say, or an eye rolling teenager, or possibly me (as a two year old, a teenager, and a middle aged mom).

A few nights ago, I was lucky enough to attend an “Ignite” speakers in education session hosted in Toronto by Discovery Education and Dean Shareski .  There were some great speakers who gave me lots of interesting ideas to think about and talk through with my car buddies.  Royan Lee did his 5 minute wonderings talk on facing a fear and why he had to set an example for his own kids if he expected them to be resilient risk takers.  Royan is a talented speaker and it was an entertaining talk to listen to.

I did not expect that out of all the thought-provoking talks offered that night (no offense meant, Royan!), that this is the one that was going to keep me up at night thinking.  But it did, and I’ve learned that I need to puzzle out the things that keep me up at night if I’m going to be a self reflective learner.

So, here’s what I figured out.  Maybe it is because I’m stubborn.  Maybe it is because I’m afraid.  Probably because it is a little (or a lot) of both, but I have been putting off taking a leap in a new direction and trying something new.  I have had many excuses to barricade me against the possibility, despite feedback and encouragement to give it a try.

Royan reminded me that my actions and decisions aren’t just about me (perhaps I need to add self centred to my list of toddler/teenager/middle aged qualities).  I need to face my own fears and set aside my stubbornness if I am going to ask any student, teacher, or child of mine to take a leap and try something new.  It makes me uncomfortable, but I guess that’s the point, isn’t it?  Learning sometimes is uncomfortable. The funny thing is, I love learning new things and am very motivated as a learner…if I am comfortable and interested in the learning.  It reminded me that there are many times when learners can follow their interests and motivations to learn, but there are also those times in school or in life when you just have to learn something because it is good for you.  The school I am in has focused very heavily in the last few years on incorporating learner voice and choice and I still stand by the fact that this is a really valuable way to learn, but not everything we do will have that immediate engagement reward.

So, I will be trying to resist crossing my arms and stomping my feet and saying “you can’t make me” while I take a leap of my own.  I’m sure it will be good for me in many ways, but maybe most importantly it will give me more experience as a stubborn, uncomfortable learner so I can share my own struggles with other stubborn, uncomfortable learners.

I have a feeling that I might run into a few during my career.  Don’t you?

Thanks Royan, from one stubborn, uncomfortable learner to another.





Ten Years Later, What Makes You Cringe?

Posted: 17th October 2015 by kkeerybi in Uncategorized

With a busy, collegial school staff of about 85, the main office is always abuzz with interesting conversations.  This past week, I overheard two separate interactions that had me thinking.  In both cases, staff members were laughing about different things they had done years ago in a classroom that they are embarrassed to now admit.  Each time, the other staff member kindly agreed with their colleague and admitted to similar “faults”.  Interestingly, none of the things they mentioned would have been considered faults ten years ago, at least in our district.

It got me thinking about all of the things I did as a teacher that I wouldn’t do now.  Perhaps I should be embarrassed that it is a long list, but instead I’m proud of it.  Doesn’t it mean that I have spent the last ten years learning, growing, and changing my practices?  I sure hope so.

What worries me is not those educators laughingly admitting their past practices, but those who don’t see anything wrong with their practice ten years ago.  Or five years ago.  Heck, I even worry about those who haven’t changed anything since last year.

There are three big reasons why I think we should always be evolving in our practice:

  • we have to be models of life long learning for our students (and if we are learning, we will be changing)
  • there is so much educational research and the sharing of good and better practices, we are not giving the importance of our professional responsibility it’s due unless we change
  • if our students aren’t changing us, we probably aren’t paying enough attention to them

Those first two points are ones that I’ve spoken about before and I know others who have shared even better thoughts on the topics, but it is that third one I would ask you to consider.

I was listening to a dance teacher recently talk about how much she has been changed by having to listen to the needs of her most challenging dance student and to find innovative ways to make the student’s learning better.  She freely admitted how much better a teacher she is because of how her student had unwittingly pushed her to be better.

I don’t know about the students in your class or school, but I think we probably all see our share of challenging students.  I would argue that with students having such a wide variety of needs, interests, skills and resources, they should all be challenging at some point.  If I am listening to their needs, I am having to find new ways to teach them all the time.  And if that is the case, I am constantly refining my practice and becoming a better educator.

People will find ways to justify how they are learning (but haven’t changed their practice) and how they have read the research (but haven’t changed their practice).  If we consider our students as agents of change in our practice, that’s a lot harder to justify.  I am listening to my students and their needs and I am still not changing?  That, I think, is unforgivable.

Maybe I’m being too harsh, but our students really are both our best teachers and our biggest reason to change.  We just need to listen, then change for the better.  Hopefully, in ten years or five years or next year, we will all have a chuckle about the way we are teaching now.