What Can You Learn From And About Your Students?
Good teachers already know that we learn from our students every day. They teach us things about our world, technology, and sometimes even our own area of expertise, but perhaps the most important lessons our students can teach us are about ourselves. Teachers are humans and that means we come pre-installed with our own ideas and beliefs and every year we teach those ideas and beliefs become more ingrained. Sometimes that is a good thing – when it comes to rules of punctuation, grammar, and human kindness we don’t need to reinvent the wheel every year. However, we should regularly examine our practices, lessons, assignments, and general beliefs about teaching and our students, or we will become those very teachers we swore would be our guides for what-not-to-do. This need to examine our practice and learn from our students is one of the primary reasons why National Writing Project teachers are expected to conduct classroom research (see Defining Teacher Research and Teacher Research Crucial). Classroom research can also provide support for pedagogical and policy change beyond your classroom as sharing the findings can influence the teaching of others and perhaps even administration. There is also one simple reason to study your students – you might discover that you don’t know as much as you think you know.