Sunday, September 27, 2015


Musings of a dark overlord: Leveraging 21st-century education with open sourceCreated by Libby Levi for

I know.

I know what I know.

The question is how.

My niece is beginning her first year as an intervention specialist in the district from which I retired.

What does she know and how did she come to know?
How will she come to know more and/or differently?

As we enter the teaching landscape, we enter ongoing conversations.

Conversations about the nature of teaching, the qualities of great teaching, the role of education in our lives as learners, as teachers-- conversations that identify and name what we do.
Conversations that attempt to explain how we do what we do and why.  Conversations about how we came to be the people who do what we do.  Ongoing conversations

For more about the ongoing conversations and the changing nature of our participation in those conversations, see these previous blog posts:

How do we archive what we know, have experienced, and remember?
And who interprets the validity of the same?

As teachers, we enter the classrooms, as composites of all we have seen, heard, experienced, learned, and read.

These words, retweeted, shared and quoted on a number of social media sites capture this notion:

"You are the books you read, the films you watch, the music you listen to, the people you meet, the dreams you have, the conversations you engage in. You are what you take from these. You are the sound of the ocean, the breath of fresh air, the brightest light and the darkest corner.
You are a collective of every experience you have had in your life. You are every single second of every single day, so drown yourself in a sea of knowledge and existence. Let the words run through your veins and let the colours fill your mind." -Jac Vanek

Sometimes our personal curriculum collage -our individual hodge-podge of learning--the how we came to know what we know-- conflicts with how others think we should have learned.

Burkins and Yaris illustrate this as they discuss how Scout learned to read and write in To Kill a Mockingbird:

In chapter 2 of To Kill a Mockingbird–a classic text, ...Scout begins first grade and meets Miss Caroline who “accuses” her of being taught to learn to read at home and tells her to tell her father to stop teaching her lest it “interfere with her reading.” Scout is appalled by Miss Caroline’s suggestion that her father “taught” her anything and begins to think back on how she began to read.  To add further insult to injury, Miss Caroline also discovers that Scout can write–in cursive–a skill that she learned from her housekeeper, Calpurnia.  Scout quickly learns from Miss Caroline that “we don’t write in first grade, we print. You won’t learn to write until you’re in the third grade.”
Burkins and Yaris go on to urge teachers to listen to their students and meet them for learning/teaching where they are rather than where the curriculum dictates.

What do our early experiences look like when we pull them out of our past to examine in our present?
What if we learn new names and theories for what we have experienced and had named otherwise earlier? Does that change the original experience?

We encounter ideas, concepts and theories as we learn, as we teach--- we are always becoming ourselves.  We are always becoming teachers.

We are a constantly changing amalgam of all we have consciously chosen to accept and make our own, to revise, to renegotiate, or to reject altogether.

Cochran-Smith and Lytle conceptualize teacher knowledge in three ways that may be helpful here.

  • Knowledge for Practice is that formal knowledge generated by researchers, the big thinking that becomes theories of teaching and learning.  What have researchers and theorists said?
  • Knowledge in Practice is that practical knowledge resulting from our time, experience, and  reflection in our own classrooms.   What have I learned as I have taught and reflected on that experience?
  • Knowledge of Practice is that learning we gain from intentional inquiry into our own classrooms, our own practice, our own thinking.  Our own classrooms become sites of interrogation and investigation. What are the implications and applications of my knowledge and practice? How can I build on my own thinking? What new thinking can I generate from the body of theories that other researchers have generated?  How can I interrogate all of this?

 For more from Cochran-Smith and Lytle  on these three kinds of knowledge see:
 Chapter 8: Relationships of Knowledge and Practice: Teacher Learning in Communities

As we continue to think about how we gain or "grow" knowledge, we have to consider what takes place as we encounter new concepts, ideas, and theories

Sometimes we find exactly what we are seeking---- or what we did not know we were seeking-- and our knowledge and experiences are affirmed.

Other times we know in our soul, but have not or cannot articulate what we know until we encounter  a particular person, book, idea or theory.

Often times we encounter ideas that challenge us, conflict with our current thinking, and create dissonance.

It is these times when we most have the opportunity to transform our thinking, to witness a revelation ... or ultimately to reject the ideas.

Which theories explain your understanding of learning, in your own classroom, in your own head.... and in life?  Have your theories changed?    What do you  know?  How do you know?

 Today's Deeper Writing Possibilities

What are you current learning/teaching theories?  How did you come to develop these theories? How have they changed over time?

Write an essay explaining to a new teacher what you believe about teaching and learning.

How can you apply Cochran-Smith"s and Lytle's  conceptualization of knowledge to life in general?
Write a poem identifying ways you know what you know.

What does it mean to be always becoming? Explore this concept in a personal essay.