On thick ice
Venturing out onto a frozen lake in Vermont can be a magical experience. Whether ice-fishing, skating or snowshoeing, this unique view is only available once it is cold enough long enough to provide several inches of clear, thick ice. The excitement of standing in the middle of a lake and literally walking on water allows one to see the winter landscape in a totally new way. January can afford educators a similarly unique perspective. Sometimes as teachers we might feel like we are treading on slippery ground or even tentatively wandering onto pedagogical thin ice. However, when we benefit from shared experience, a global community and sound research we can feel confident in what we are doing.
Thick ice comes from our experience. And halfway through the year, we can enjoy the extraordinary view of student learning that can only come from inside a classroom or on the ground in a school. The distant shoreline and vague memories of August give us a sense of how far students have come since the beginning of the year. Like reflections of the sky on an icy lake, we can recognize student learning and enjoy what’s to come. We know what has worked (and what hasn’t) and each semester we become a little wiser and stand more firmly on our foundations of teaching.
Thick ice also comes from community. On my frozen lake, the bright January sun paradoxically provides warmth in sub-zero temperature. Likewise, the smile of a student or hug from a colleague at the end of a long day can warm us up. The collective efficacy of a team of teachers not only taking responsibility for all students but making a difference within a community is the solid ground on which we stand together. And educators sharing what works across a global network deepens connections and grounds us in our practice.
And, finally, thick ice can also come from research. Through data we’ve gathered ourselves and investigated with colleagues, we build our shared knowledge base. Understanding what impacts student learning and how we can improve outcomes helps us see more clearly, like trees silhouetted against the winter sky. Whether from action research or empirical studies, professional insights and conclusions provide a solid foundation for us to stand on together as educators.
After many years working with a global network of educators, we are also taking a moment to reflect on what we’ve learned and how we’ve grown – through experience, community and research. Like standing on that thick ice of a frozen lake, we are enjoying an incredible view and planning for what comes next. Together with colleagues at UW-Madison, we are planning some exciting new opportunities for 2023 and we look forward to you joining us.
Jon Nordmeyer, WIDA International Programs director
*Finnish: kind regards