Tuesday, August 5, 2014

We need space to learn...


I was sitting on my backyard patio recently with Keenan, one of the new teachers who has joined our staff for the upcoming school year. He wanted to get together and ask me a few questions about what he's heard about our school, and to get the "lay of the land" as he put it. Keenan was wondering what he should be doing to prepare for a successful year. The thing is, I had a conversation that same morning via Google + that got me thinking about preparing for the upcoming school year, and it was resonating for me a lot. Alex Gagnon is a fellow Canadian thinker and doer, and he is not a teacher. I like to speak with non-educators whenever I get the chance. They have interesting views about what should be done in schools. Part of what Alex said is spinning around my thought-stream...
Really teachers or facilitators etc. just need to have a space they can hold... and be left alone to do the important work of learning... at whatever speed learning chooses to happen on that given day... less structure, less paperwork... more just being face-to-face and in small groups.
I totally agree with Alex on this point, and I tried to emphasize for Keenan that he should be reflecting on the point as well. 'Learning space' can mean many things... physical space, cognitive space, emotional space, experiential space... it's all about perspective. I've been thinking about this idea of 'learning spaces' for a long time. At our school we've set to the task of designing them in multiple contexts to reflect environments of authenticity (to us, purposeful and meaningful learning experiences... those that inspire kids to continue learning, do homework without it being assigned and to conceive their own ideas about how to represent what they've learned,) and effective inquiry based learning. As a result different kinds of collective learning spaces are evolving at our school, and it makes sense for us to reflect on where that is coming from.
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