Sometimes you just want to hear some straight up excitement about the work you do every day. Jenny Megeira spoke to educators in Surrey Schools a few months back, and she more than delivered. She was extremely well spoken, creative in her presentation, and inspiring. She scraped off the crust that accrues on all of us in the daily routines of deadlines and lessons to prepare, and helped me re-experience, re-see the raw joy of connecting with another person through helping them learn, and learning from them.
Jenny talked about risk, learning, and the danger of too much comfort. She encouraged us to allow our students to take real risks in their learning, risks that might lead to failure, in order that they can really begin to learn. She encouraged us to lighten up as teachers, to allow our inner learner to emerge and have a role in our classrooms and teaching environment. She reminded us that if we want to really innovate, it won’t work if we guide others in taking risks while at the same time we ourselves are sitting back and resting on our accomplishments. We must never allow ourselves to become too comfortable. We must continue to take our own risks, and engage in our own learning. One thing I especially like was that she did not provide us with “six steps to innovating in education”, or give a simple prescription for building success in students. She described the spirit of openness, willingness to learn, and readiness to “let it go” and allow our students freedom to learn, even if that learning is not we ourselves anticipated that it would be. Great stuff! These are words of wisdom that remind me as a leader that I can count on the human impulse to learn, and that I need to try to avoid unintentionally stifling that impulse to learn in my students, and in my colleagues. In fact, I need to give myself, my colleagues, and my students permission to do what is needed in order to learn as much as possible.
I left the presentation feeling encouraged, relaxed, and inspired. I also left with a some some new ways that I can use Google products in my life and in my classroom. These were skillfully woven into the talk, referenced in a natural way, and look like a heck of a lot of fun.
I’ve been to several presentations like this, where there a powerful and inspirational framework is brought to us, and that the inspiration is then directed toward a tool that is paid for by the company (maybe a new way I can use my Apple phone, or a nifty way that I can apply a Google product to my classroom). I certainly have no issue with this – Google is paying the bills for her, and presumably (hopefully) they have a similar ethos of creativity within their organization, and I will be the first to agree the digital tools open up many doors for learning.
But the digital is not the only way to go with this kind of inspiration. There are other doors to open. Those are the doors that lead us outside into the world around us. They into our community, into our natural world (our parks and woodlands), and into our wider world (of adventure, advocacy, active citizenship). We should never forget, in the middle of inspiration, that the choice of risk that we take is our own. We don’t need to always default to digital. Analog is also awesome (and leads to amazing alliteration!). And we need to be careful not to be driven into a new dogmatism, where the electronic becomes everything in education.
Jenny’s advice for us as teachers is also good for us to consider as leaders, as parents, as learners ourselves, and as citizens. The following was my summary of her points:
1. Allow your students (or children, or employees) to take real risks in their learning, risks that might lead to failure.
2. Lighten up as teachers (or parents, or as citizens – allow your inner learner to have a role in our classroom (or your world).
3. Don’t let yourself get comfortable – keep taking your own risks.
And if we do take this advice, let’s follow it where it really leads us.
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