Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Finding the Purpose in Learning

By: Rachel Vissing (Barry)

Last week, I began my ninth year of teaching.  In this past few months, I have encountered a lot changes in my life: I got married, I stepped down from coaching track & field, I survived my first year teaching an AP course, and I increased the time in my role as Teaching & Learning Facilitator.  I notice that the first thing I mention is something personal.  This is unlike me when I'm in my "professional mode".  I have always thought of myself as driven, focused, Type A, etc.  For a while, I believed that I could separate the two, especially in the blogging universe, however, I now have found this not to be true.  We educators are people, first and foremost.  Our students are people, first and foremost.

In reflecting on these ideas over the summer, especially in seeing my students AP scores two days before my wedding, my colleague Mark Heintz wrote a blog post that really resonated with how I was feeling.  Why do I look at my students in terms of scores?  Whether AP or SAT or an exam score, I seem to focus a lot on numbers.  This made me think...do I see my students as people or as a number?  



Not only do Mark and I work together in the education setting, but we also coach the girls' cross country team together.  One thing that Mark has always pushed me to do in all aspects of my life is to determine a purpose.  "What is the purpose of your course?" or "What is your purpose of this workout?" or "What is the purpose of school?"




Well...what IS the purpose of school?



If I were to answer this question myself, I truly can't answer it succinctly.  I have tried.  Even if I try to break it down to "What is the purpose of math?" or more specifically "What is the purpose AP Statistics?", I get stuck in too much ambiguity: what do "understanding", "good", "respectful", and "knowledgeable" mean? 

As you can see, I am a long way from finding my purpose.  That is my goal this year, to develop a personal "mission statement" for my own learning as well as what I want my students to learn.  The one thing I do know is that I want my focus of my purpose to always view my students as individuals.


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