a culture of learning

“… and now you’re a wacko like me.” I’m not sure if I’ve ever had a greater compliment regarding my philosophies on education (assessment in this particular case) then hearing these words from Rick Wormeli on my shift in thinking over the past twenty plus years in education. I haven’t always been the type of thinker I am today regarding education. Mainly, I think, because once I became a teacher, for a few years,  I stopped learning.

I think my beliefs first significantly began to move when I began my masters degree many years ago.  I don’t remember the title of the book, but in the first paragraph, there was a statement about how education is modeled after the industrial age and in many cases has never looked back. It went on to compare schools to prisons and hospitals as being highly institutionalized organizations. This message made me pause and reflect not only on educational practices in general, but what was going on in my own classroom. I took the balcony view and imagined the school that has its students sitting in rows, being taught one discipline for 60 minutes, the bell rings, students stand up, move to another room, sit in their assigned seat where another teacher lectures another subject in isolation for 60 minutes, the bell rings, repeat …

Today I work with some pretty amazing educators who help “push my thinking.” Conversations involving inquiry-based learning, relevant projects, Genius Hour, makerspace, flex time, interdisciplinary challenges, dismantling of computer labs, breaking down classroom walls, questioning why we need bells, deeper learning, community classrooms…all in an effort to make learning fluid, relevant, engaging and purposeful. None of this would be possible without having a culture that supports learning. A place where teachers are reading, talking, researching, forming learning communities. One of my most important roles as an administrator is to support that culture of learning and help it permeate throughout the school. Leaders, I feel, need be strategic and creative to motivate and support a school to continually have its professionals engage in learning.  George Couros recently posted the question  How do you make the great learning go “viral” in your school, to move from “pockets” to a “culture of innovation?” which he addresses in his new book (which I’ve ordered, but yet to read) The Innovator’s Mindset.. It’s a great question and one I look forward to exploring further.