When I heard Elliot Eisner speak about 10 years ago he said that schools should be centres for teacher learning as well as student learning. This stuck with me and has constantly challenged me. I’m the kind of guys who loves learning, especially if its hands on. When I needed to put a roof on my garage, I got a book out of the library, read and researched and tried it out (this was before Google!). Now I find the online tutorial or watch the YouTube video, and off I go. Of course, as an amateur, things don’t always go as well as they might.
One year I shared my experience building a fence with my photography students, to help them understand that it’s ok to make mistakes. They got the picture, and I found that when I was willing to share my learning (however flawed), they were willing to take more risks in their learning. (none of their mistakes would be as permanent as mine! I’ve since learned to string the posts first!)
The next step is to be willing to learn alongside our colleagues and students. I had the opportunity to attend a session to hear David Warlick speak together with our future librarian and several other teachers. When I broached the subject of a new way of doing library, the Learning Commons, Michelle began to tell me about what she had been learning from the librarian at Fraser Heights and the amazing things she had heard about the Learning Commons at John Oliver in Vancouver. I immediately looked it up and began following Gino Bondi on twitter and reading his blog. Then I wrote about what I was learning. The writing brought my learning together, and keeping a blog forced me to keep reflecting. I haven’t posted everything I’ve written, but I’ve learned a lot. The conversations and planning sessions with Michelle on the topics of blogs and technology, the Learning Commons renovation, the Home Ec blog, applying for Learning Commons materials, have all helped me understand better how our students learn, and what we can specifically do to help them. I’m reading ideas for 21st century education, but Michelle is living it, and I’m learning from, observing and joining in that process.
When I shared this learning at our opening staff meeting, I was more nervous than I expected. I think that is the difference between presenting on something like Health and Safety, which is important but it is not part of who I am. Sharing my learning is personal and it’s real, and that’s what makes it hard for any of us to do. But if our learning matters to us, it will matter to our students as well. If our school becomes a place where the everyone, the adults and the students, are learners in things that matter, I think it will be a much more energizing and rewarding place to be.