Lifelong Learner

One characteristic that is often preached about by administrators and teacher’s college professors is that the good teacher is the lifelong learner. It is important that teachers continue to learn and grow. When you continue to learn, you are making a commitment to growing as an individual. You are also staying in tune with what is relevant to our ever-changing culture and society. We all become out of touch sometimes, but one of the easiest ways to maintain that grasp is to read, connect, think, and stay “tuned in”.

The other night, I was flipping back and forth between CNN and the BET Awards. While watching, I was struck with the contradictory nature of the two. CNN appealed to my intellectual interests and inclination to stay relevant with current political and social matters. The BET Awards tapped at my emotional curiosities and my sense of staying relevant with cultural matters. Now, my interest for music and social trends are not purely artificial. With that same token, my need to stay attuned with political trends is not deeply vital to me either. I have personal drives as well as ulterior motives that are connected to both. So I flipped back and forth because I knew that both programs would enrich my pedagogy.

This interest speaks to the social dynamic that teachers are required to navigate. Teachers must be able to loiter between two very diverse worlds. They must be able to hover within an “adult world” which tends to be a world in which an awareness of political and economic matters somehow demonstrates one’s competencies and abilities to be taken seriously by peers. And they must remain grounded in the world of the now, the world of “popular culture” and its ever-changing modern social tastes of all things pertaining to the social and cultural community. Teachers must be smart, intellectual, and educated. Their knowledge on topics of history, science, and math must be well-founded. But they must also be connected to “what is going on now” and able to communicate with students in a relevant and meaningful way. This is what I think makes an engaging teacher, especially one who works in urban communities.

Communication is the key in teaching an idea. The ability to relate is the best pedagogical practice a teacher can embody. Of course, most adults, in retrospect, wish they had learned the importance of the political process or the workings of economy and finance sooner in life. How many times have you said to yourself or heard other adults say, “If I knew then what I know now”? We have to ask ourselves honestly: even if the importance of political activism and economic responsibility was preached to us early in our lives, would we have really cared? If a teacher told us to be political and smart with our money (and I am sure they did), how engaged would we really have been with that lesson? Unfortunately, interest in politics and economics and things of the adult world are not engaging to most kids. Just like Migos’ latest song or who won best hip-hop duo of the year at the BET Awards doesn’t really do anything for most adults. The two worlds may be connected but they do not often overlap. But as teachers, you must find that common ground. To kids, politics and economics and other “grown-up stuff” is abstract. Truthfully, it is abstract in the same way that most history and science information is as well. In order to reach our students, we need to communicate through the quantifiable. We must use ideas and realities that they can fully understand and relate to. In English or history class for example, use an awards show to teach how the voting process works. Use music they enjoy to teach them about metaphors and similes. Practice the ability to stay in tune with the professional world while staying relevant in the social one. Keeping a vast perspective is the best way to connect with all around you. Simply some thoughts as I flipped back and forth between CNN and BET.


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Matthew R. Morris

Educator, Speaker, Writer

Matthew R. Morris is a writer, speaker, and elementary educator in Toronto. He has an M.A. in Social Justice Education from OISE at the University of Toronto and is the author of the forthcoming book, Black Boys Like Me. 

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