Unlearning Everything

This is me scrambling around with new ideas, trying to get my thoughts in order.

Trying something new.

A ‘new’ way of learning. The kids take it in their stride. They’re amazing. I’m always inspired by them, but maybe it’s not so amazing at all, really. Kid’s are like that.

I’ve been working hard to develop more student choice and voice in my classroom, and greater student agency. I use these words now because they’re in vogue, but I don’t think they’re anything new or extraordinary; I just think we’d lost our way. But the resurgence of this focus, especially with the enhanced PYP, has strengthened my endeavour to create a learning environment and learning climate which respects and fully caters for each child’s interests, learning habits and curiosity. I knew that this was needed, and examples from educators sharing their practice online and supportive discussions across timezones have added wind to my sails.

It sometimes feels like it could collapse at any moment though. At times, recently, I’ve been waiting for the wheels to fall off. And there have been moments when I’ve hit a bump in the road and felt like it’s a complete failure; but that says more about me, to be honest. Each new hurdle has a tendency to get me down and I have to work hard at becoming the model of perseverance and growth mindset that I ‘preach’ to my students. Trying something new can sometimes be a little terrifying. To me. But the kids deserve it so I press on.

A desire to improve my practice has been helped immeasurably by the teachers in my PLN and my study of the Montessori method whilst my wife and I considered different schools as my daughters were nearing the age of pre school. I’m happy with the progress I have made, but being impatient and a perfectionist certainly hasn’t helped me achieve anything stress-free.

Learning about the Montessori method, and Reggio-Emilia during my first years as an art teacher, was my first cue to try and respect each child’s natural curiosity and interests, and Taryn Bond-Clegg’s inspiring examples of student agency have helped me push on in my own classroom. Until these discoveries, I tended to follow what I had experienced and what I was ‘supposed’ to do: plan every lesson for the week, mark everything with a green pen, written feedback for each piece of work, display finished work only. It feels like a century has passed since those times.

So, where do I go from here? I’ve found something miraculous and I want to share it with everyone, but not everyone will find it miraculous. As I said, trying something new is always a little terrifying.

One of the most difficult parts of change can involve unlearning everything that we’ve experienced or been taught. It requires a lot of letting go and trust, and this isn’t always easy. Often it involves turning everything on it’s head but I believe we can get there one step at a time. This is me learning to be patient. It’s my #oneword. Yeah, good choice, Wes, a nice easy one for you.

My experience has taught me that some teachers, students and parents often believe that the way they have always been teaching, learning and informed about learning is the ‘right way’, and helping them see a new possibility is scary for some and confusing for others. I was recently asked if this new approach I have been implementing- students planning their days and leading their inquiries- is really what parents signed up for; should I therefore not consider the clients’ (parents’) expectations?

Maybe I am doing that, and more, but it’s starting to look so different from what school has always looked like that it’s regarded with some concern. “You’re starting a revolution,” they said. I’ll be honest, the first time I let go and handed the harness to the students, I was reeling. It was messy, I didn’t have control. I hated it. And then I saw that it was what I had been searching for. I had trusted them and they pulled it off, but I didn’t know what would happen and I freaked out, worried that two days would have been wasted.

Don’t you want the students to be empowered, I ask? Why can’t you see how a learning expectation for all is unfair and detrimental to learning?

Unlearning everything is hard and terrifying sometimes.

One step at a time.

One thought on “Unlearning Everything

  1. This is awesome. I think my focus as an educator has also changed as my children were born and are now of pre-school age. What sort of education do I want for them? A one of compliance? No. I want one in which my daughter has a teacher who expects her to be an agent of her own learning. And will shape the environment accordingly. Perhaps the fear of many comes from thinking that “hands off” means “minds off”, “hearts off”, “heads off”. None of these are true for me. Hands off, yes. But still engaged. Still observant. Still looking for ways to amplify the learning. That’s my #oneword – actually, I cheated and I picked two: #amplify and #curate : look for ways to document the learning and collect evidence to support my understanding of learning. Keep disrupting – even when it’s messy. That’s usually when it’s working at it’s best!

    Liked by 1 person

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