I am struck by how ideas form. This morning was like waking up under a bucket of cold water with various inputs – all enlightening, some glimmering sparks like stars, while others made me aware of darkness. Over the past few days thoughts have been bubbling about learning, as I read writings of others.
‘Learning is this’, ‘learning is that’. It makes me itch when theorists or educators so firmly define learning as a something. Imagine the teacher standing over the desk, asking the student, ‘What are you doing? Why aren’t you learning?’ really? Who could be expected to answer that? I certainly didn’t know how to answer the substitute teacher, so just turned my face back to the book, in grade school.
Sometimes learning is as etherial, something delicate and almost passive that is woven into our essential everything. I cannot just ‘learn’ just like I can’t just dream, but I can become more receptive to having ideas, and if you know me, I am indeed likely to blurt out with an ‘OH!’, mid conversation, because something popped into my head. Is that step one? It’s probably step 47, but recognising it is a good thing and certainly fits along the path somewhere. It is far less often the thing that happens when someone shoves a book under my nose and says: learn this.
What is learning? -Can anyone put their thumb on it?
Learning happens through experience and is the result of experience, but is not an experience. Thinking existentially: I am learning.
I do learning.
I AM learning —-> Learning IS me.
I AM LEARNING.
Maybe? Toying with the idea and changing from the idea that learning could possibly be put into any box ever impacts all I do, how I approach students, how I think, what I regard as important. Everything can be part of learning, and that is how to begin to cultivate that allowance for/of ideas to happen. The challenge is then to connect out and do something about it.
This morning there were two very unrelated stimuli that resulted in my brain firing and making a connection somewhere.
The first was the video in this tweet (link below looks like a pic, but it’s a 2 min video – worth watching to the end):
Legend Matthew Hayden | Bombarding Magpies, Silky Oak trees & Unbroken Windows | Shaping Game Skills & Intentions through Environmental Constraints & Billy Brown's Instruction pic.twitter.com/6MfuzOpr6A
— richard shuttleworth phd (@skillacq) January 11, 2018
To me, it raised all sorts of thoughtful questions about where and when people first encounter that ‘something’ that inspires them and how it is allowed to develop. There is amazing value in play and the self-organisation that happens with children completely devoid of adult input. There is also something to be said for circumstance. In the video, there is ‘stuff’ all around in that rec room; it is not a fancy place, but they found a way. I do not advocate hardship. Instead perhaps like allowing the ideas, the connections to happen, there is a responsibility (certainly for those who call themselves teachers) to recognise the patterns and drive when it is happening. I do not know a thing about the sportsman in the video, and my mind immediately went to thinking of parallels in music.
It goes beyond recognising those moments, it is how to allow them to exist, without breaking them.
When learning is broken it is like being roused from a dream. It happened last night while I slept. I was dreaming and it was an important dream – figuring something out, and tossing in my sleep. My husband put his hand on my shoulder, and I became aware. It was like being asked that question: Was I learning now? And even though the answer would have been yes, asking somehow made me lose it. I felt myself being pulled out of the experience of the dream and remember thinking how nice it was that he wanted to calm me, but also thinking please, please let me back into that dream.
The second catalyst this morning was an article in the Chicago Tribune asking what was your reaction to the sickening (my description) language of the American president. Beside the topic of what was said, the article has a broader relevance. What do you do? That is the question. Each of us has varying capacities, understandings, outlets, connections tools, skills, and ways of doing, and what do we do?
My reaction as a teacher is the need to go out there and share something that reflects and propagates value and plants seeds for learning. I cannot ‘learn’ you. I cannot do for you. Only you can do for you. In a staff development day last week someone asked if people could encapsulate what they did in a short sentence, what would it say? My answer: I lead people to believe in their capabilities. (that’s what I’m aiming for at least) You can. I will not be the one to impose a limit on your ideas, the good you can achieve. Ok, that does sound over the top positive, but today there are so many negatives being shouted, I am happy to be a positive voice.
In a couple of weeks I’ll be taking a small group of students to LA to teach music and to experience people, places, things, and themselves. (More on that project here) I hope learning happens, for me, for them, and for those we meet. Planting seeds is something I can do.
I will write a proper, sourced post about learning; that’s in the pipeline. These are early morning thoughts and I realise I’ve thrown out there more questions than answers. Early morning thoughts are like that sometimes.
Featured image source: https://twitter.com/MedievaI_React/status/950815507728519169