28 January 2016

Trying to Change Education? Focus on Learning

In the past week I found myself feeling out of sorts professionally and wasn't exactly sure what was going on until yesterday when I had a conversation with Drew Perkins and we talked about teaching and learning. You see, conversations about teaching and learning make me happy and all the other business discussed in education I find extraneous (but often necessary) to my bigger mission and sense of purpose in life. Subliminally, I must have known what was causing my despondency because when I submitted my professional growth plan for the year, it focused entirely on...you guessed it...innovative teaching and learning.

Sir Ken Robinson often talks about how children are born voracious learners but begin to lose the appetite for learning when we send them to school. Traditional school models can suck the love of learning out of students just as they can rob teachers of the autonomy they need to do what they do best--engage students in learning. I know I felt this way when I left the high school classroom six years ago. Since then I have immersed myself in work directly connected to supporting teachers because I believe great teachers have the power to create experiences that engage students and make them want to learn.

Fortunately, I'm surrounded by others who also care passionately about improving public education. My hope is that when we discuss what needs to be done to transform education, we never lose site of the focus on learning. Sir Ken Robinson articulates what I feel in this video around the 14:24 mark.
"...we can spend all day talking about education and never mention teaching or learning but if there's no teaching and learning happening, there is no education, so if we're going to improve it we have to improve that bit and everything else has to take place around it and not get in the middle of it or in the way of it."

As he occasionally does, my oldest son railed against me yesterday afternoon for my decision to be an educator. He feels my husband and I should have chosen more lucrative careers. When I grew quiet amid his chatter, he concluded "well, it's not a total loss because at least you and dad like what you do."

How can I not like what I do?  I have the opportunity to work with great teachers, great teachers who...
"...excite people, engage students, pique imagination, fuel creativity and drive passion"