In SelfDesign Learning Community – the innovative school I helped co-found in British Columbia in 2002 – our praxis is to support learning in all its shapes, forms and guises. And since we started we have come to recognize that learning is as varied as each learner.
To educators and parents perhaps it comes as little surprise that when you ask a child or youth, “What do you really, really want to learn about?” most will have a unique answer, keyed to their unique and diverse learning interests.
We ask that question in SelfDesign as a way to kickstart a Learning Plan process in which children are included as collaborators and co-designers of what will be become their de facto curriculum for the school year.
And through my varied roles in SelfDesign as instructor, learning coach and supportive witness (which pretty well summarizes our educator role) the learning I have seen emerge over the years has come to form in my imagination as a caravan of the most exotic, delightful, interesting and profound insights I could ever have imagined as an educator.
All the time I see children developing skills, accepting challenges, surprising me with their innate wisdom, and surpassing the expectations and limiting beliefs I and others hold of what learning ‘should’ look like. When I look for learning I see children cooking, focusing on athletics, experimenting with robotics, having an experience of living like medieval serfs, designing and making their own movies, and not stopping until they are satisfied with the results they create. All driven by self-motivation.
And in that learning I sense children experiencing a plethora of emotions: excited by a journey of discovery, delighted by their own breakthroughs, frustrated by bumpy challenges, determined to try again. Some are playful and confident while others are serious and anxious.
All any of them need are the opportunities to learn on their own terms, without fear of reprisal, and sometimes some support to keep learning, and trying.
The end result of this, as I’ve experienced so many times in my career, are learners – people – who are comfortable with their own sensibilities and confident in their own abilities to learn, again and again.
Learning looks and feels differently for each one of us, reflecting our human nature. And that’s all educators need to know and nurture to set a magical caravan on its way.