Pickaway News Journal

Wed, Aug 23, 2017

HERE'S WHAT I THINK: Experience

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Having worked in education all of my career, I'm fortunate to be able to look back on experiences I've had that have helped me become, at various times, a better teacher, principal and superintendent.

The expression that "experience is the best teacher" is certainly true. Yes, we learn from books, but real-life experiences can provide a lifelong lesson.

I remember when I was a new principal, I made the mistake of thinking I knew more about teaching than those who had been doing the job longer (and better) than I had.

While evaluating a primary grade teacher, I gave her poor marks for a reading lesson. I then added my expertise about how the lesson would have been better. When we met to review the evaluation, she took me to task. I stood my ground - after all, I was the boss.

The teacher invited me back in to observe her teaching the same lesson but using my suggestions. It was a disaster. I apologized and learned that I could learn from others while I improved my skills.

To quote Confucius: "By three methods we may learn wisdom: first, by reflection, which is noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest."

It is a true statement, as I obviously remembered that experiential learning these many years later.

I was fortunate. The primary teacher was willing to speak her mind and I learned from it. But there are other ways to get experience.

In a SmartBrief article, Naphtali Hoff recommends gaining experience quickly by taking advantage of learning opportunities, such as educational conferences.

He also encourages professionals take advantage of a mentor or peer group. "Mentors can cut down the learning curve significantly by offering of their experiences and sharing their views on how they would handle certain situations," he writes.

And, as I learned from that primary teacher, ask for feedback. Hoff writes that "feedback is critical for the reflective process."

Read the full article at www.smartbrief.com.

Ty Ankrom is superintendent of the Pickaway County Educational Service Center. He can be reached at ty.ankrom@pickawayesc.org.

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