Who Says You Can’t Teach an Old Dog New Tricks?

Every year in Manitoba, all schools are required by law to have 10 fire drills and two Lockdown drills. These allow staff and students to be prepared for any emergency situation. Twice a year, we also practice bus evacuations in case our students are involved in an accident or if ever there is a fire or other emergency that would require all riders to be evacuated from the bus. Our last drill happened to be this past week.

school bus

As usual, my First Graders found a seat and tried to listen carefully to what the bus driver was saying, but there was a continuous high pitched sound ringing in the bus – one even I could not ignore. Before the driver started, I asked him if it was possible to turn this alarm off (as it was a clear distraction for everyone on board including students who have sensory sensitivities). He told me that unfortunately, it wasn’t possible. If he took out the key, another alarm would sound which would be worse than the one we were currently experiencing. I found this to be confusing, because it was the first of many bus drills I have experienced where we have had to endure such an excruciating sound. So he continued explaining the safety procedures and asking students questions while this awful noise resonated within the confinement of our bus. All I could think of was how much my students would retain with this unwelcome distraction (and how we could make these drills better – We’ve all been through them – the same drill, twice a year for more than a decade…but that’s a conversation for another time!).

Anyways, after 10 minutes, the driver who was in charge of the bus behind us came to ours and informed our driver that her last group had finished and she was leaving for lunch. While she came in to deliver the message, she immediately heard the piercing sound and instantly turned the key a notch which finally silenced this dreadful tone. the best teachers are the best learners An instant sigh of relief came over the entire bus. I immediately thanked her and when our bus driver realized what she had done, his eyes lit up in wonderment. He quickly asked her how she did it and for her to show him how! He then turned to us and said “22 years I’ve been a bus driver and she’s been driving for just one year.” I smiled and nodded my head. This example just confirmed my belief that you are never done learning. You can learn new things daily, no matter how much experience you have, no matter how much of an expert you are, and no matter who you’re with. There is only one requirement – you have to want to continue to learn.

This driver’s feelings were much of the same as he embraced this learning opportunity from someone in his field, regardless of how many more years experience he had over her. No one likes a “know-it-all”. What made my day was how he was genuinely grateful for his colleague to have shown him this new trick and surely his daily riders will appreciate it as well!

Many thoughts and questions came about as I reflected on what I had just witnessed.

  • If the sound did bother him, why didn’t he ask someone to see if they were experiencing the same thing or ask someone for help? As George Couros (@gcouros) puts it, “Try, fail, and try something else until you find or create a solution that works.”  What I want for my students is for them to have the drive to seek solutions and find the answers they’re looking for, but know that I am always there to help and guide. I want them to be assertive and take charge. Don’t wait for someone to show you – be willing to try and find a solution yourself. Stretch yourself. Innova
  • Just because it’s always “been that way”, why wouldn’t he question “why”?
  • How do we treat our new teachers in our schools? Are they seen as having less experience or are they given time to share their strong points?
  • If you are a new teacher – don’t be afraid to share your knowledge with others. Do not discredit yourself for having little experience on the playing field. Others can learn from you. The same is true for seasoned  teachers who continue to learn as they teach. As Derek Sivers (@sivers) states in his motivational video Obvious to You. Amazing to Others, “Everybody’s ideas seem obvious to them”. Clearly something so simple as turning a key made such a difference in the lives of many!

This just goes to show you that you CAN teach an old dog new tricks (especially when continuous learning is welcome) and that you should never underestimate people who have less experience than you. Other teachers may have judged this bus driver for his lengthy bus drills or his difficulty hearing, but what I took away from my short time with him was how he embraced this opportunity to learn. Regardless of where you are, take the time to get to know the individuals you work with. Learn from them, learn with them and expect them to treat you no different. You’ll never know what you may learn from one another, no matter how long or short of a time you’ve been there!

Cheers to all teachers who continue to be learners – for themselves and most importantly, for the learners in their classrooms! What’s your next stop and what will you learn?

life as a teacher quote

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