Be Teachable

Written on one of the tables at

Many bloggers have been posting their take-aways from Educon2.1. I have to admit that though I was sad to leave SLA and my PLN on Sunday afternoon and even sadder to say goodbye to Liz Davis as I left her at the Philadelphia Airport an hour later, my brain was fried. I wasn’t ready to think about next year or reflect on this year’s conference.

Let’s be honest. I wasn’t ready to drive home as I hadn’t had enough sleep. I wasn’t ready to tackle all the laundry that was waiting for me or to have to go grocery shopping to make sure that we had supplies for the girls’ lunches on Monday. Oh, and I wasn’t ready for my workshop on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Friday. I was shot.

What are ya gonna do? Get ready!!

The next day I drove back towards Philly to work with a group of teachers on UDL. It was our third of 5 sessions together, so these were teachers that I had already built a rapport with. We talked openly about good teaching and what was working in their classrooms and then I asked them to take my presentation for the day and redo it so that it was more accessible to them.  We worked on the concepts behind multiple methods of presentation and worked on which tools would help them meet the objectives of the UDL framework. At first they were uncomfortable with editing my presentation. I explained that I had designed it that way to make a point and to teach me a more appropriate way to present these same ideas. I was hoping that they had really looked at the YouTube videos and wikis I had shared with them about PowerPoint reform.

On the drive home I spoke with a tech coordinator from a high school in North Jersey. We had been trying to connect with each other for a couple of weeks, so using the hands-free device in the car, I listened to him talk to me about how great the school’s infrastructure was, how they had at least four computers in each classroom, plus a couple of COWs. What he needed from me was to come in and get the teachers excited about using technology and to give them the tools, skills and confidence to bring their school into the 21st Century. I found myself thinking that I’d be happy to help him as log as his staff was teachable.

0128091The next day I drove to North Jersey to finish some SMARTBoard mentoring I mentioned in a previous post. I had 5 sessions mapped out for the morning ranging from a group of pre-k teachers with no IWB experience to a 5th grade teacher with over a year’s experience who was thirsty to learn the more advanced features of the technology.  What I didn’t expect was the middle school language arts teacher who walked in the room who had just started working at the school the prior week. She immediately asked me how this technology would help her get her students to be better writers. I asked her how she teaches them to write. We only had 25 minutes together, so you can understand that I needed to make some pretty quick decisions. She was very much against using any technology in the classroom because (…and you’ve heard this one before…) when she was a student, she learned to write just fine without a computer.

I sat and calmly talked with her about how not every piece of technology meets every need. That she might consider using collaborative documents with her students. I asked her if she wanted to make sure that her students were ready for high school, college and the work force in addition to being good writers. She said she was interested in learning how she could integrate technology and still teach the pedagogy behind good writing. She was open to ideas. She was teachable. I invited her to the upcoming Google Learning Institute at Rutgers University.

I was scheduled to drive back towards Philly today to work in one of the middle schools in Camden City School District. I work with a team of stellar teachers there in my 21st Century Learning Initiative. Though I’m disappointed it was canceled due to the snow (the district closed the schools), it gave me a chance to go through my inbox, my notes from Educon2.1 and look back at the week and what’s still to come.

What have I learned?

I tell people I try to learn something each day. I’m pretty sure that on the days I’m out in the field working with teachers I learn way more than one thing. I know I learn more than one thing a day when I attend a professional development event, be it in person or virtually.

I try to be teachable. Whether you are a noobie or a seasoned educator or somewhere in between – be teachable.

12 thoughts on “Be Teachable

  1. Yes! Such a great point. No matter how much I love or hate a workshop, I find that I can always leave having learned something. Sometimes it is small, sometimes it is huge, but the key to being teachable is always admitting that you have something to learn. I know a lot of stuff, but there is still so much more out there. Everyone I meet has something to teach me. I’m so lucky to have met you – I’ve learned so much.
    Miss you too.

  2. Lisa

    “Be teachable” is a great line. That is something I always want students to come away understanding. Everyone has something to teach. Everyone had something to learn. You may not get it right away, and you many not like it, but you don’t grow if you aren’t willing to to be taught.


  3. This post give me so many flashbacks as a technology coordinator and educator. This topic is so right now. Yes, educators have to be teachable. We have to be willing to move outside our comfort zone in order to meet the learning needs of our students. Don’t we request that are students be teachable. We need to model that request in our learning expriences. We not only need to be teachable at workshops, but need to willing to be taught by our students. Thanks for this post and all the teachable moments you have provided me.

    See you soon,

  4. Adina – well said. You have to be willing to be taught. So many times administrators send teachers to PD. They don’t want to be there. They’re not committed to learning. If we’re not invested in the topic, why would we want to learn?
    Thanks for you comment.

    I have a post-it note on my monitor at work. It reads “We can no longer allow you to live in your competent place.” I can’t tell you who said it, but I look at it often and think of all the educators who are amazingly intelligent and really great with working with kids, but aren’t ready to move forward with change.

    Thanks for moving forward with me over the years. I’m looking forward to Monday!


  5. hwjohnson says:


    I love how you think and reflect. I am glad to see you having the opportunity to go to schools in such different parts of NJ giving these opportunities to teachers in all different teaching contexts.

    I know that your schedule gets busy sometimes, and you know that I am a real family first person, but I hope that you are encouraged by knowing that you are making such a difference in the lives of teachers.

    One problem with getting teachers to truly buy into integrating technology in some places is timing and commitment. Unfortunately, teachers are burnt out by too many initiatives, mandates,and programs that are ineffective and a waste of time. Others get excited about technology, but their excitement is dimmed by poor access and empty promises by their administration. It is not that they “prefer” paper/pencil, manual, low-, or no-, tech solutions, but that it is the only thing they can control and trust.

    Always a pleasure to hear your thoughts and grow with you.


    1. @Heather – Timing is everything isn’t it? I would love to hear more about how the teachers you have worked with have overcome some of the access and empty promise issues. You and I have both seen teachers promised and trained on technology that never is even ordered.

      @Louise – I guess we just have to continue to model for our students that we are lifelong learners and hope that the impact that we have on them makes a long-term impression.

      Thank you both for your comments. I truly appreciate them.

  6. Great post! I am open for learning everywhere and especially when it comes from my students. I could not fathom the thought of going through a day without having learned something new. I really want my students to hunger and appreciate that too! Sometimes I wonder what it will take for people to actually be a lifelong learner.

  7. I think I may make a “Be Teachable” poster and hang it in our school’s computer lab. I am finding a lot of synchronicity lately between the posts I’m writing and posts I’m reading on other people’s blogs. I just sort of wrote a post about some of these same ideas (at least to me they are similar) –

    As we know, we can only control other people so much. We can continue to model an open-mind, excitement about learning and the value of a learning community.

  8. To learn from the cradle to the grave.This is the idea! Especially in this volatile world where what you learn today might be out-of-date tomorrow. keeping up with this insane rapid development of world would be a real challenge for every body, particularly for teachers. A teacher is obliged to follow the stream, to be teachable, to be an eternal learner.

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