To Learning!

15 December 2019 | Chris Priebe

To Learning!

Refining one’s craft appears to be the eternal search for that ever so close feeling of completeness and satisfaction we yearn for as educators, that our impact on student learning was, is, and continues to be highly effective.  The daily check in with my wife on the drive home each day typically includes, “I was a moderately effective teacher today,” or the not so fun, but often true, “I was not an effective teacher today.” I think we get it, we reflect on our practice and therefore refine and adapt as new information is presented, read, or observed.  I once heard a saying, “It’s ok to be where you are, but it’s not ok to stay there.” I use it often for areas of my life needing improvement, and also to inspire learning in students and the community I serve, where I am fortunate to have colleagues who are pushing the boundaries and challenging themselves to do and be more. 


Having the pleasure to teach amongst these colleagues who are open to taking risks and share the why and the how of their teaching practice, challenges me to take risks and try new things, so I find myself challenging my thinking and practices often.  Eliminating stale, yet trusted methods, and braving the new unknown. One practice which has come under scrutiny this school year after going ‘all in’ on flexible seating and student self-directed scheduling is changing the language around student learning, and the elimination of calling learning ‘work’.  As I have eradicated this word being associated with learning activities, I have been more cognizant of the activities and what learning they are actually demonstrating. In calling learning, learning, and not work, I have intentionally changed the expectations for myself and students in what we ‘do’ to learn.  My role is to help create and support real and relevant learning opportunities, where students engage in learning. I help to establish learning goals and inspire learning. The shift has been challenging, and at times has felt inauthentic, but nonetheless we persevere. We don’t work, although some things have felt like work, instead we learn.  


Since making the shift to calling learning ‘learning’, students are able to answer prompts about what they are learning, how are they learning and why are they learning. Students are prepared to answer how they are demonstrating learning too. My goal is for students to be engaged, in the driver’s seat, and focused on their learning, and therefore I am focused on creating opportunities for their learning, not for them to work. 


This subtle change in our language and thinking around the difference between learning and work has been far from subtle in its power to transform. Try it, I’d love to hear how the shift goes for you, your practice, and the students you serve.