Moving Forward Takes Looking Back

Theologian, philosopher, poet, and social critic Soren Kierkegaard lived from 1813-1855. He philosophized how one should live as a “single individual,” giving priority to concrete human reality over abstract thinking and highlighting the importance of personal choice and commitment. Here are two quotes and some thoughts that were shared with me by Richard Thiessen, the Director of Research at the AIMS Center.

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”

To be a teacher in the right sense is to be a learner. Instruction begins when you, the teacher, learn from the learner, put yourself in his place so that you may understand what he understands and the way he understands it.

Steve Jobs said something similar. He said, “you can’t connect the dots by looking forward, you can only do that by looking backwards and that starts to make sense.”

These quotes resonate with me on many levels, but today they make me think about the importance of teachers and the responsibilities they have around personal choice and commitment to ongoing learning. Even in the current atmosphere of turmoil and hard times in schools and districts, my wish is that teachers do not overlook the importance of their own learning. Teachers are resilient and find ways to take on challenges while moving forward to teach students. They are dedicated to adding to what students already know and still need to learn. I wish that teachers would take time to learn from their students, put themselves in their places, understand what they do, and look backwards to connect the dots. In short, take time to reflect on what they have taught, leaving an insightful window into how their own learning and growth might benefit their students.

Teachers, take the time to share your thoughts, collaborate, and support one another during your professional journeys and to make your professional thinking matter. Teachers working together helps students achieve growth. Make your individual professional growth a priority. Use your skills and knowledge collectively to envision, collaborate, and support each other. It is the nature of education, and the place we are in its history, that you must work to learn and improve. Now is time to do that. Be an inspired teacher today contributing to better teaching tomorrow and in to the future. Teachers, embrace the education practices you facilitate today, all because you have looked back to connect the dots, making progress to go forward, because of what you have learned from your students.

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