Taking Risks

Sarah Parsons

Summer 2019

It is difficult to pinpoint the one thing that sticks out for me about open-pedagogy.  I think of it more as the gestalt of teaching — create a space where the number one priority is thinking and learning; hierarchy is not conducive to creating an environment where learning happens; encourage everyone in the learning environment to take chances and stretch themselves beyond what is comfortable and easy; take a risk and keep going; don’t limit knowledge acquisition or demonstrations of mastery to one singular medium; engage teachers, students, and learning on a variety of levels.  Trust learners to engage as they can; model behaviors that you want students to emulate – ask questions, be overwhelmed by the experience of learning; stammer; misspeak; miss the mark — do all of these things and keep going — rephrase your thoughts, process out loud, reconsider your earlier statements, have purely beautiful moments of insight and clarity about things that you had not previously considered in full view of your peers and your students.  Enjoy learning things you know nothing about, or better yet things that you find distasteful (except Brussel Sprouts which are distasteful always, even with hollandaise sauce).  Listen.  Admire.  Consider what you again what learning and mastery looks like.

For me the challenge is more about creating and sustaining an environment in and out of the classroom where this work is rewarded and respected.  My biggest concern about this process is not that I haven’t learned things about how to be a better, more effective educator because I have.  Teachers who talk about how to do things differently and how to reconsider our traditional mental and physical model of education always inspire me.  My bigger concern is that there are rarely administrators in the room supporting and encouraging the institutional and environmental changes that need to take place in order to make this kind of work our foundation and not a project.


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Cluster Learning at Plymouth State: A Community-Based Approach to Pedagogy Copyright © 2019 by Sarah Parsons is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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