Become an Explorer in Your Own Classroom

Featured Post By Leslie Eaves, SREB

The National Geographic Society’s Learning Framework helps students embrace curiosity, responsibility and empowerment while developing and using observation, communication, collaboration and problem-solving skills. How can we grow these skills and attributes in ourselves?

As teachers, we design engaging learning experiences that provide time and space for students to express their curiosity about the world by observing and asking questions. We teach them how to find answers by conducting research, reading varied texts and investigating phenomena.

We challenge students to accept responsibility for their learning by providing opportunities for them to engage in self-reflection, tap into their metacognitive abilities and organize their thoughts. Our students become leaders when they take on exploratory, problem-solving roles, collaborate on complex tasks and create imaginative solutions to real issues.

We help students develop strong, unique voices by facilitating conversations in which they can share their insights and present their findings to peers and members of the school community. As teachers, we empower the next generation of young leaders to boldly recognize, confront and solve the problems they find in their communities and their world.

Teachers have the magical power to look at students from all backgrounds, cultures and belief systems and say — “I know you can do this!” With our support and guidance, students can learn, do and become so much more than they ever thought possible.

So how do we create this magic for ourselves? One answer is to participate in professional learning systems that help us embody the “explorer’s mindset” we cultivate in our students.

“Curiosity has its own reason for existing.” — Albert Einstein

I don’t have to tell you: Teaching is not easy. When we become explorers of our own teaching practices, however, we unlock our curiosity about our students’ worlds. We also open ourselves up to seeing and hearing things that inspire us to ask questions, seek information and ask more questions that lead to deeper truths and understanding.

Spend a moment — even five minutes — observing your students. Take a clipboard and jot down notes as if you were a scientist making observations in the field. How are your students interacting with the tasks you give them? Notice how they talk with each other and what questions they ask — or don’t. Allow your observations to spark questions. Consider these:

  • Why are students engaging in this assignment? What makes it work?
  • Why is this student having difficulties? What can I change to make this assignment work for them?
  • How can I take what’s working right now and apply it to my next unit?

Questions can guide your research and lead you to play with new ideas in your classroom. Gain insights and perspectives from peers by bringing your questions to professional learning communities, workshops or conferences.

“A problem shared is a problem halved.” – English proverb

As teachers, we shoulder a lot of responsibility, but we can’t own everything that goes wrong in our classrooms. Ask yourself:

  • What do I have responsibility for?
  • What do I have control over?
  • What do I not have control over?

We gain greater control not only by thinking critically about how we personally approach classroom challenges but also by finding thought partners with whom we can collaboratively work through thorny student issues or tough learning concepts.

“The strongest principle of growth lies in human choice.“  – George Eliot

We grow in power as educators when we unleash our inner explorers and take and share responsibility for our successes and challenges in the classroom with others.

What does growth look like for you? Maybe you choose a professional learning opportunity that will help you become the teacher you want to be. Maybe you speak up in a workshop and ask the facilitator to address a concern in your classroom. Maybe you partner with an instructional coach to think through a problem together.

Each choice you make to examine and improve your practice empowers you to make the next choice, and the next, toward being the educator you want to be.

Take the Next Step With Us

SREB is partnering with the National Geographic Society to blend our approach to job-embedded instructional coaching into a high-quality professional learning series on creating and cultivating explorer mindsets. This spring and summer, teachers like you are joining us for virtual professional learning courses and individualized coaching that will help you harness the National Geographic Learning Framework and become an explorer in your own classroom.

Interested in participating? A repeat of our learning series on Developing Inquiry and Explorer Mindsets runs June 6 – August 3, 2022, with additional trainings to come. Email me at leslie.eaves@sreb.org to learn more. Although you may come to the series as the sole participant from your school, you’ll be surrounded by educators from across the globe who are also seeking to use National Geographic resources and our Powerful Instructional Practices to design transformational learning experiences for their students.

Contact: Leslie Eaves: Leslie.eaves@sreb.org