Yesterday in my blog I wrote about my daughter and her puppy Ezra, and how we attempted to make him a shirt. Yesterday we ended up with a scarf. Today my daughter, independently with just a bit of lean coaching in from me completed a shirt for Ezra. In fact I only coached in at the beginning and at the end just nudging her along with a tip and answering a question or two. The bulk of her practice was independent while I was out shopping and taking my son out to practice driving.
According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary the word practice means to do something again and again in order to become better at it. As a literacy coach I often talk about how students need to practice repeatedly in order to improve. For instance, in the mini lesson of reading or writing workshop we ensure students have guided practice in the gradual release of responsibility model that we follow. Here students have an opportunity to practice with a partner, with the teacher close by, listening in to assess for the next steps. Once students go back to independent workshop time students will need to practice the skills or strategies that they are working on. This works well for habits, skills or content that most of the class will need to practice.
If we meet with students, set individual goals related to either habits, skills or content students will then need to practice that skill for sometime. They will need to repeat it many times until they become better at it. I believe this is where the most important practice happens. It is especially important to carry these goals for a long enough time that they do improve and maintain the habit, skill or content understanding.
This also made me think a bit deeper about practice in all learning experiences, as adult learners do we allow enough time for our own practice? It seems to me that teachers and other adults in the education community forget that teaching is a practice, and as such when we are learning something new would then need to engage in practice along with approximations along the way. I usually refer to the process of learning as a messy process and we often say embrace the mess when you enter my office which is also our professional learning community room. I wonder though, if teachers really are allowed enough time to practice new instructional practices and are they allowed approximations in that practice. I wonder if we as teachers allow ourselves that time to learn. So many times I see teachers who are hard on themselves, often not allowing for practice time or any sort of approximations. Sometimes this turns into resistance to any sort of change, because it is really fear of failure. If we believe that as research shows we have learned more about the brain in the last 10 years than any other time period in our history it seems imperative that we embrace teaching as a practice and that we seek to continually improve our practice. To do this we have to allow time for practice, space for mistakes, trials or approximations. We need time to practice, to do something again and again in order to become better at it.