California Dreamin’

I’ve had another adventure in learning and teaching… and sometimes when things are so good, it is hard to begin to put them on paper. This post is a glimpse.

I’ll call it: ‘Part 1: Of Many’

I know that my students will have to carve their places in the world of music- that there are few traditional ‘jobs’ that exist anywhere. Graduates don’t walk out of education and walk into a single full time secure job in music. Part of what I do is work to develop experiences that hold a bank of skills so that as people progress they can build their metaphorical pantry. …With shelves full of ingredients someone can make more than a PB&J sandwich in the restaurant of their musical lives. I like (and feel the need) to grow and develop my repertoire of musical skills and experiences.

I went with one of my final year students and with my 17 year old son to California for a week to work, learn, and teach – together.
We were hosted by some amazing people – Kenn Heller in LA and David Preston in the Central Coast, and we visited and worked with friends and fellow thinkers and learners Anji Gaspar-Milanovic, Lisa Chu, and Howard Rheingold, and met amazing teachers at the schools we visited. 

One of my favourite things is that learning is. (yes, that’s the end of the sentence) Learning IS. It isn’t ‘some thing’ – it’s bigger than that. Not just in school, not just from a teacher, not flowing from the one standing up at the front to those sitting at desks, not confined to 4 walls or certain types of people or certain times of the day… It is open. This was Open Source Learning in action. In the photo at the top you can see 4 people playing one cello: a mother and son, teacher and student, friends, guitar player, singer… a team.

And so on this trip we worked as co-learners and co-teachers and we worked together in everything – even down to scheduling and planning our engagements. I wasn’t always the one in charge. That was possible because we were all on board with the same plan. The people with me had chosen to step up to the tasks and work together as a team.

There is more to say than I could possibly fit in a blog post, but a few flavourful examples (highlights for me) of moments when my co-travellers really surpassed my and their expectations.

Denny is a High School teacher and he had just explored playing the cello for the first time, in front of his students. It was exciting for the students to see their teacher experience something new and there was an ‘A-ha!’ moment where he realised his accomplishment and said something to the effect of ‘Yeah! What’s next? I’m ready to go!’

Screen Shot 2016-02-29 at 12.02.46

Pete, my university student, then said to Denny, in front of the other teachers and his Special Ed students in the room:

“That moment right there was learning for me. That is is what learning is all about and you need to remember that moment. Hold on to it, because there will be days when everything goes wrong – it will be raining outside or cold or you’re late or everything seems too much, and if you remember that feeling it will keep you going, because you can. You did it then and it was amazing.”


Later that day James, my son, was asked if he would play the piano and he spoke about improvising to a high school Screen Shot 2016-02-29 at 12.05.30music class of 40-50 – it was a room of students his age and he spoke, played, and shared about the nature of improvising, taking risks, allowing music to happen creatively. It was not planned, it was not ‘checked’ or agreed with me – there was no permission needed – I was neither involved as teacher or mother, and I could enjoy being in the audience. I could never have manufactured that situation, but seeing it unfold was magic. Like James said:

‘Sometimes improvising is like walking down a road, and you don’t always know where you are going, but then there might be a twist or turn and it can take you to amazing places.’

Screen Shot 2016-02-29 at 12.11.23

And I had my own moments too… I enjoyed sharing the Yes I Can that sums up self-efficacy and my book in the various settings, I drove and drove from LA to SanFrancisco and back, and I was giddier than a 6 year old on her birthday as I sat in front of the Petaphysical Slot Machine with Howard Rheingold in his robes. Soaking in everything from Howard’s art to book recommendations to the wonderful smell of Eucalyptus acorn caps in the woods.



Anji house Photo LA Feb 2016 copy



Learning happens everywhere: at 5 am sitting at the kitchen table, in a friend’s sitting room, in the car, walking in the
woods, and yes, in the classroom too. On this trip I was asked at one point if I had an wish-list and I had to honestly answer no – not at that moment. I was so pleased to have the privilege to be wide-eyed and to meet every situation and opportunity that this week brought. I am fantastically grateful to all the people who shared their time, expertise, and experiences with us along the way. We may be nearly 6,000 miles away, but we’re still California Dreamin’.


  1. Pingback: Meeting the Mother of Yes -

  2. Maha Abdelmoneim

    What a wonderful journey and experience. I love “Learning Is”.

    For years the words “Always Learning” have been part of every breath I take and every move I make 🙂 The words Living and Learning ….. Spontaneous. curious, playful, adventurous, imaginative … so precious the moments when those sparks are jumping freely creating beautiful patterns inside us, around us and opening portals to the future.

    Thank you for sharing these moments of unplugged learning 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.