How do I expand my knowledge while teaching full time?

Teaching is a demanding calling. Daily lesson-prep takes time. But Rolin says that as you teach, you should strive to grow in your understanding of the subjects you are teaching. In this video, he shares several strategies for maintaining growth: force yourself to learn, read on the side, and just keep teaching.

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I teach high school math and science which I find to be high content subjects. It’s very helpful to have a level of understanding that’s higher than the level that I’m trying to teach at. Something that I’m very interested in is expanding my knowledge.

It’s not easy, I guess I’ll say first of all. I find it’s really busy preparing lessons. I feel like I just need to prepare for that next day and I have to be ready for that lesson and don’t have time to get the bigger picture and fill in things like that.

So a few things that I’ve learned…

You have to want it badly enough—to want to learn in your subject area. What I need to do is actually force myself to learn it. One of the best ways that I’ve done that is by taking a class or two or something that forces me to learn in that area. And so that’s one thing you can do if you somehow have the time or money to take a summer class or take a part-time class online or something like that in university or college level. That’s really good for pushing you to work hard and to grow in that area.

But that doesn’t work for everyone so kind of what I’ve found helpful is to do a lot of reading that interests me on the side. It’s something that I really enjoy and is the way that I found that I’ve gained so much knowledge is from personal reading that doesn’t necessarily connect to something I’m teaching but I can learn so much from it.

I read a book that was… maybe gave me a framework of some extra things to teach […] my students: how numbers were developed… How that has contributed to me is when I’m teaching a lesson sometimes being able to pull in how this concept was developed, why it’s used and so on. So that was one that was specifically for math but it wasn’t a math textbook.
Science: I’ve actually maybe gotten some interest in content areas that I want to look more into, but also learn things from novels. It’s not all accurate but it maybe gets you thinking and gets you asking questions. And so then I’ll Google why this is the case and if this is actually accurate.

I don’t teach a lot of history but I really enjoy reading history and find that that just really connects to a lot of things.

Different people probably have different ways of doing this. I know some that learn better from videos. For me personally it’s been the reading: I try to read for a few minutes every day, at least.

Another question that I’m interested in is “What are some the advantages that a long term teacher has?” And I’m in my fourth year of teaching, and I’ve had the privilege of teaching a few classes the second and third and even a fourth time now. In those classes that I’ve a chance to teach again, I still find that I have to go back to the subjects and learn—re-learn the lesson I’m going to teach for the next day, but I’ve also really noticed that by teaching a few times there’s a lot of that kind of content stored in the back of my mind. And so I think that as I keep teaching and doing it longer and longer there’s gonna kind of be a larger pool of knowledge and connections to draw on as I learn my lesson. So that’s one thing that’s been exciting for me to see that kind of knowledge and skills set growing from the teaching that I’ve done. And I hope that in maybe twenty years of teaching that that will keep growing and [I’ll] be able to keep pulling on that.

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