It was an epiphany moment! It was a question I didn’t know how to answer! It revealed my inner uncertainties! Really, am I an expert? Can any teacher claim to be an expert?
Expert, by definition is “having or showing special skill or knowledge because of what you have been taught or what you have experienced” (Merriam Webster Online). I have been taught, by formal courses, informal learning and by experience, to be a teacher. By my actions and intentions in teaching and learning, I practice. My teaching practice has lasted a lifetime as I’ve attended to formal or informal education. Practicing the craft and art of teaching is a never-ending negotiation between the possible, the probable and the potential. Does that mean I can call myself an expert? Then aren’t all teachers experts?
My practice, particularly with educational technology, began in the early stages of ed tech – before the pundits professed to be experts, even before teachers knew what to do with the gadgets (anyone else remember ICON computers?). It’s been a long history of learning from failures and mistakes. Guess that makes mine a ‘growth mindset’ kind of journey. It’s made me expert at learning from my mistakes. Am I an expert? Not yet!
I don’t think it’s over …. YET! At no point along the journey did I ever feel I had a handle on best practice or optimal integration with educational technology. I was practicing all along the route – and still practice now. Isn’t that why it’s called a ‘teaching practice’? I guess that makes me an expert at practicing.
So, when I was invited by Heather Theijsmeijer to share my practice with other educators at Manitoulin IgniteED, I jumped at the chance – more time to practice what I teach! There are others I can learn from, fellow educators with whom to collaborate! To my surprise I was billed as ‘guest expert’ on the information poster. So, why shouldn’t I be an expert? Teacher’s can be experts, can’t they? Should we ever so humbly state to parents, colleagues, students or school leaders that we are ‘practicing’? Yet I didn’t feel that I had crossed some invisible line from becoming a teacher to becoming an expert. Can I be both?
Then I thought of all the great teachers that I recommend, share, follow and connect to because they are expert at what they do. Sylvia Duckworth, Brian Aspinall, Doug Peterson, Sue Dunlop are some examples – they model expertise, but more importantly, they visibly practice! They share their experiences & reflections and their insights & failures. They reflectively engage in practice to make themselves and others ‘get better’. As an educator, being an expert isn’t about the label or crossing a line. It’s about making a commitment to practice to perfection, fully knowing that perfection is a never-ending quest!
With this insight into being an expert, I’ve come to understand but not necessarily accept this title. In my own mind I’ll never be an expert. Yes, I may have skills and experiences with educational technology and continue to practice the craft, but I don’t think I will ever comfortably fit the title of ‘expert’! Being an expert sounds like an end-point. My ed tech journey is still under revision while I practice the craft. I’m opting to be a ‘lead learner‘ or a ‘learning technology specialist‘.
How about you? Are you an expert? When can you call yourself an expert? What are you expert at teaching?