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Fragments II: micro stories about the learning business

Going to school every day doesn't make you a learner

A few weeks ago, some of you may recall, I wrote down some of the reasons why my non-teaching colleagues never learn.

My central point was to argue that all members of a school community should be empowered to reflect, grow, inquire, try new things, fail, adapt and learn, not just the teachers.

But in the process of attempting to put theory into practice and implement a new framework for professional growth, I've begun to realise that going to school every day doesn't automatically make us learners. It all depends on what chair we are sitting in.

Allow me to explain.

Thirty years ago, Carol Dweck wrote about the difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. She taught us to believe in the brain's capacity to continuously evolve and develop. She taught us to apply ourselves to become a little better every day.

All well and good. But in working with my colleagues, I've learned that to shift from fixed to growth also requires that we move from a doing to a reflecting position - away from everyday tasks and our lists of things-to-do to a space where we can stand back, gain perspective, and consider what is really going on.

Students and their teachers are constantly oscillating between these two positions, almost without noticing. For some of us, however, in order to make the shift, we literally need to move chairs.

A photo of two red chairs in an empty room
Some of our colleagues never have the opportunity to move chairs.

But that's easier said than done.

The problem with many school administrative functions is that the chairs are bolted down and tied to function, reflecting a 'factory model of education' that everyone else in the learning business began to abandon years ago.

Administrators exist, in other words, simply to keep the organisational engine running, full steam ahead, fuelled by an endless cycle of day-to-day tasks.

Away from the classrooms, there aren't too many spare chairs lying around for reflecting. And given that success is often measured against efficiency and productivity, why would anyone ever choose to sit on one?

Going to school every day, I believe, should make each one of us a leaner. Those of us who are busy encouraging our colleagues to take a seat, however, should perhaps consider the possibility that there may be larger, structural issues to tackle; and that, unless we face up to these broader issues of the way we structure roles and responsibilities across the school, we will only ever be arranging deck chairs on the professional learning Titanic.

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