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We are excited about learning (at last)

We’re not there yet, but it is really happening. We finally stepped back, so that learners could take control.

We’re excited. Can you tell? We put it in the title, because that’s the thing about excitement; subtlety is just not an option. But let’s try to get into why we feel this way. If you are the person that reads the last page of a thriller before the first page, or shakes a gift to guess what’s in it, you’ve already skipped ahead. But for the rest of us, it goes like this. 

We are all in education here. Learning is our why, and there are hundreds of thousands just like us. Many of them came together during [RE]LEARN Learning Innovation Festival last month, and we are still so excited about being around all those people who are full of energy to remake the future of learning. But that’s not the thing. 

It hasn’t been easy to achieve this level of excitement. Most of us went to school with rows of desks facing the gatekeeper of knowledge and we made a lot of life choices and judgements about ourselves based on our ability or inability to thrive in that very specific model. We saw other people having different experiences, and just got pragmatic about it. School isn’t for everyone...right? 

There were glimmers. Remember that teacher that used to weave stories and set your imagination on fire until all you wanted to do was go home and write a story of your own? Remember that time you just had the right group around you and got immersed in what you were doing until the school bell jolted you out of it? It wasn’t enough to feel the way we feel now, but it was the start. 

It has been a long journey in education and it hasn’t been a linear journey either. For years the struggle was just about having the right to an education, and with that level of discussion, it’s little wonder we didn’t take much time to deconstruct how we actually went about “delivering” it. 

We moved through drilling and memorisation, behaviourism and multiple intelligences, learning styles and zones of proximal development. “Good” teachers and “bad” teachers. “Bright” learners and “lazy” learners. So many boxes, so many myths. 

When you sit down with people and talk about how they actually learn, it’s never one thing or one factor. We are not one dimensional beings and our brains just love novelty and stimulation in multiple ways. There are so many factors that, although we understand how they work, we just can’t control it all. And this is why we’re excited. 

We stopped trying to control it. 

Listening to Learning Guide Devin Carberry today, chatting with two learners about the new learning paradigm, was inspirational. The joy of learning was bursting bright at the seams and, had there been a video to accompany it, we imagine it might be mistaken for a toothpaste commercial. That’s how much smiling went on; we’re sure of it. 

To hear a learning guide say that he is grateful to be in an environment he doesn’t dread going to each day, is such an antidote to the more common narrative of educators worn down by a system that demands more and more, until there is no space to step back and dream. A system in which exhausted teachers go on woodland retreats to reconnect with their reasons for starting out in education, when this is something that should burn inside them each day. An environment that works for them will give them energy and not sap it. 

To listen to two learners talk of exploration and self-direction; sharing the joy of the experience of growth, and experiences that fuel their own fires, well; lets just say we’ve waited a long time for this to become the narrative, even if it’s not yet the norm. 

That’s what we are excited about. We’re not there yet, but it is really happening. We finally stepped back, so that learners could take control. We can worry about the environment, the support and the opportunities, but never the direction a learner might take. That’s not something that fits in a box.  

We are moving towards a paradigm that supports learning through passion and exploration;  growth through experience and reflection. A future that is optimistic because our children are actually ready for it, and going each day to a place that we all actually want to be in. 

When we said “school isn’t for everyone”, we were right, and that’s why we don’t want to create a school. We’re not the only ones, and there are more each passing day. This new way of learning is truly growing. And all we had to do all along, was to step back and let it flourish. 

 


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