Yesterday I attended Faces of Learning Kansas City, which was a coming together of educators and concerned citizens to talk about how we learn. Essentially, it was a discussion of how we might change what learning looks like in our city and across the country. Faces of Learning is the brainchild of my new friend Sam Chaltain, and Sam traveled to Kansas City yesterday to have a community conversation about learning. I am sure to sell the idea behind this campaign short, so I completely suggest going to Sam’s website to check it out for yourself. What I will say is this: the idea that the best learning comes from the inside isn’t rocket science. It’s not even a new theory. We must consider HOW we learn and what the ideal learning environments might look like. It should be what school districts from San Diego to Boston and Minneapolis to Dallas are asking of their students and what we are asking pre-service teachers to consider before they ever step foot into a classroom.
We talked yesterday about what learning looked like for each of us. How my friend Steve discovered his potential for learning and pushing himself when he was faced with the daunting task of teaching a chemistry lab in college. Steve is now a high school English teacher, and while he is certainly, among other things, the most organized person I know, he’s no chemist. Sorry, Steve. He spoke about how that challenging experience led him to see himself as a teacher. Laurie talked about being a teacher in Los Angeles and how she was constantly told what she could and couldn’t do by the administration – and in effect, how that changed her teaching and her learning. Maggie talked about what she has learned about herself and about learning environments by being in charge of student teachers in early childhood classrooms all over Kansas City.
I tend to learn like a four-year-old learns. Perhaps it’s the hours I’ve spent on the floor with four-year-olds in my own classroom, but I need to be hands-on with learning. Whether I’m learning something about technology (did I tell you I’m on the tech team?) or about cooking, I’m not absorbing anything unless I am getting my hands dirty, so to speak. My best learning comes when I’m pushed to question everything – to wonder about things and to make connections with like-minded people. Yesterday, I recalled being a 14-year-old and spending three weeks of my summer at what is now Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri. I was a part of the Joseph BaldwinAcademy, and that summer and the one after it was spent taking college level classes with about seventy of my peers. Not only was it the first time I was away from my family – how grown up of me – it was the first time I was truly challenged to think outside of the box. AND, it was the first time I was with a group of kids who weren’t judging me for wanting to learn. At JBA learning was cool, and I still get that giddy, excited feeling when I surround myself with people who are excited about learning, just like I did yesterday.
What struck me about the conversation we had yesterday is that it shouldn’t be so difficult to ask teachers in Kansas City to consider how they learn and what the ideal learning environment might be. Imagine what it would look like if teachers considered the immense diversity in learning patterns in their classrooms. In a city where our public schools are not something we are bragging about, we should be taking ALL of these things into consideration. This conversation about learning needs to continue in our schools, in our churches, and in our communities.
I really don’t want to get into education reform. I am lucky enough, for now, to be (as a teacher) relatively unaffected by the way our government handles education. I also know that once I start writing about it, I might not stop – so I will spare you my thoughts. I will just say that I walked out of that conversation – which continued, over hot wings and beer, I might add, with some of the most amazing teachers I know in this city – and I was excited about what the future of education and learning in Kansas City might look like. Not only am I a teacher, I am a mother of two beautiful girls who I believe deserve only the most amazing opportunities when it comes to learning. I believe we owe it to our children to continue these conversations, and we mustn’t stop until we are truly satisfied with what we see happening in our schools.
**if you're interested locally in KC in joining this conversation, please take a look at this**you can also get more information here