I love to learn new things. I better be upfront and say that a high school friend once taught me how to change the oil in my car and, now, I could not perform that chore if my entire life depended on it. So, maybe I love to learn new things when the learning doesn’t cause me to get dirty. But learning is dirty, in a way. Right?
Consider the following statements. Choose the one that best defines the way you look at learning.
*I can change my beliefs by changing my behavior.
*I need to believe in something very strongly before I will act on it.
*If I understand the reason for something, I will be more apt to do it.
*If something makes me feel good, I am good with trying it.
Without getting too down in the weeds, each of those four statements can be considered as a life-lens. How do you view the best way to learn a new skill? I have always had the belief that if I can apply a new learning to something already in my brain, the new idea will stick. Just like Velcro, I stand by the idea that I have little feelers in our brains just waiting patiently (maybe impatiently, in some cases) for new thoughts or ideas to drift by. If the feelers are out, I can attach the new learning. But if I don’t have a life experience or prior learning on which the new idea can “stick”, I very likely will not be able to keep the new learning in my head for long.
But I also believe, as many 12 step programs believe, that sometimes we simply have to fake it until we make it. Here’s an example of that:
Many school districts have adopted a new framework on which they are basing the observation and evaluation of teachers. In order for everyone to be “up to speed”, some training has to take place. People engage in the training much like our students do---some are willing, some are reluctant, a few are even belligerent. If the initial training is engaging and thought-provoking (which often includes learning a new academic vocabulary for the framework), many participants will leave with a new understanding of how they will be observed and evaluated. IF, though, the learning doesn’t stop there, and educational leaders and teacher leaders find ways to infuse the training into the already existing structure and system of the school, pretty soon people will begin using the vocabulary (maybe using words like “constructivism”, “metacognition”, “engagement”, and many more in more than simply a cursory manner. When learning moves from “faking it until we make it” to “this is a part of our school culture”, systemic learning has taken place. Does it happen overnight? No way. And an entire paradigm shift may need to occur before the new framework is totally successful. The paradigm shift simply must include, however, a culture of trust and vulnerability between teachers and administrative staff. And that takes some facilitation (preferably from an objective entity like a consultant or support team) about trust, building a culture for inquiry, and a belief that our school or district actually has the capacity to support one another.
I was blessed to spend time as a learner this weekend with fellow colleagues who consult with schools and districts about learning more effective ways to teach. The learners with whom I spent the weekend are people who have been or still are school teachers, school leaders, district leaders, and other roles. So, everyone comes from a different perspective and we may all choose a different statement from the above pool of choices on “how we learn”. But, at the end of the day, we are committed to helping schools achieve better collaboration, better teamwork, heightened trust, and learning for all. I am grateful to be a part of such a think tank, because the individuals in the group push me to think about my own thinking. I’m not finished, yet. I may never remember exactly how to change the oil in my car but I am forever changed by the learning and growing I do with my colleagues.
Just for today, perhaps we can be thankful for all the teachers and learners we have been given.