Sunday, December 30, 2012

Leaps of faith...


flickr image via Scarto

In teaching and learning, whether we're jumping off a cliff, or jumping off a curb, the important thing is that we're jumping off something. I've never been one to make a lot of resolutions for a new year, but this year I will make at least one. Im actually thinking it's more of an unresolution than a resolution owing to the notably not so much a SMART goal nature of it.

I'm not going to stand still.

I intend to keep moving down the learning paths I've set for myself; maybe even define some new ones understanding that the journey is something to be enjoyed, and perhaps that in learning, we never really arrive at the place where we can check 'that one' off the list. As soon as we think we know something, a truly authentic pathway of learning will show us a new direction or branch of the path that sets us off asking new questions so we can learn more, or differently along that path. I'm OK with this ambiguity because I think it will enable me to see beyond a more specific and narrowly focused goal (resolution.)

Teaching and learning involves motion. We have to move in the directions that suit our teaching and learning needs. When we don't feel like we're on solid ground, sometimes this means taking a leap of faith. To find stability again we have to take a jump. Finding ourselves standing on the proverbial precipice, we have to recognize that where danger exists, so does opportunity. We have to remember that there are no emergencies in education, and that there will be a safety net at the landing point. This is the faith part. Little jumps, or big jumps; it doesn't matter as long as you're making some sort of jump.

More than any other biological species, it appears that humans are born to learn. We learn in so many different, and natural contexts.  We are in constant motion; traveling in simultaneous physical, psychological, emotional and cognitive realms. Robert Sylwester characterizes this need to be in motion ...

The planning, regulation, and prediction of movements are the principal reasons for a brain. Plants are as biologically successful as animals, but they don’t have a brain. An organism that’s not going anywhere of its own volition doesn’t need a brain. It doesn’t even need to know where it is. What’s the point? Being an immobile plant does have its advantages however. Plants don’t have to get up every day and go to work because they’re already there.
On the other hand, if an organism has legs, wings, or fins, it needs a sensory system that will inform it about here and there, a make-up-its-mind system to determine whether here is better than there or there is better than here, and a motor system to get it to there if that’s the better choice – as it is, alas, when we have to go to work.
Really high functioning schools are committed to honoring the learning paths of each one of their teachers. I work on the premise that teachers show up everyday wanting to do their best work; I'm totally convinced of that. People who work in schools do the best they can with consideration for the skills they possess and the resources they have been provided. We do the best we can to support each other in acquiring new skills and establishing new resources, but there is one caveat. For these skills and resources to be purposeful and effective, staff need to be ready to move; to take a jump, whether off a curb, or a cliff... they have to be willing to move from one uncertain place, to another perhaps slightly less uncertain place. 

It's imperative that leaders in education (to me, everyone involved with teaching and learning has the capacity to lead) recognize that some will feel comfortable jumping off a cliff, but others not. The size of the jump depends on how comfortable we all feel about our learning place. Some will most definitely jump off the proverbial cliff and enjoy the ride all the way down. Others are just ready to jump off the curb, and perhaps will even feel anxious about that risk. That's OK because we're all different, and it's the differences among us as teachers and learners that make what we do so infinitely engaging and interesting. Each one of us is at a different place and time along our own learning path, and there is no need for anyone to slow down, or catch up. We are where we are, and that is where we all need to be.

I have come to believe that acquiring knowledge, skills and attitudes that allow us to be in positive motion toward better learning places is the purpose of contemporary teaching and learning.
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