We’ve always stated that meaningful learning is flammable. It starts with a spark and then ignites! You know when learning has caught fire….. agency ensues and the student drives their learning and not too much can get in their way. The difference between a flame and incendiary learning can be categorized quite easily in terms of duration, desire and determination.
A flame burns during a specific period of time (unit of inquiry) and usually reduces to embers, just like a typical fire. The student was empowered and energized, yet there was a point that they moved on to the next thing.
Incendiary learning catches fire and stays burning bright, long after a unit of inquiry. The student is empowered and energized, and they are still in the fire taking their learning even further, long after the next thing.
A stark contrast. One is perishable and one is enduring.
The subtle difference between ‘was‘ and ‘is‘ has a remarkable difference at the same time. This changes the whole complexion of learning as the ‘energy of learning’ has been sustained and has the learner enthralled.
Last week, I visited a previous School I was at and a number of the students I taught literally, hunted me down. One of those students was Nicole.
This is Nicole as a Grade 5 student chatting with the Head of School (Adrian Watts) and explaining the message she is trying to communicate through her art piece. Her art work is incredibly personal and powerful as she is expressing the importance of finding her voice and expressing who she is. The mouths in the background are all those who have told her that she can’t do anything. With Nicole at the center of her art work, her positivity is radiating out and drowning out the negative and judgmental voices. This was a real turning point for Nicole in developing her self belief. She had a teacher who saw something special, and it was all about allowing her to see that too. This was Step 1 in Nicole’s journey of finding herself.
The next learning experience pushed her even further. Enter the PYP Exhibition. Nicole’s artwork was the first step she needed to take and this naturally led her to explore and better understand her next self-discovery…. putting her new transformative experience of who she is becoming into action and finding direction in the process!
This is Nicole during the Exhibition selling her ‘FABTAB’ (comes in different sizes and colours) at a market at a funky local cafe and skater hangout. This is the moment that shaped her to be a confident and articulate communicator as she interacted with dozens and dozens of people interested in her entrepreneurial idea. Incendiary Learning! Students, parents, teachers and customers were truly astonished!
As I mentioned above, I saw Nicole last week. We got talking and she said that she just made her first nternational order to Ireland of 100 FabTabs….. Nicole is still producing, refining and taking orders, now international orders, for her FabTab. What a journey she has been on and is still very much on. It all started from her artwork, that was the first step she took in believing in herself, because she had someone who believed in her. We must believe in all of our students. Personalize learning, individualize learning, whatever form it takes or looks like, choose the right approach at the right time to connect, develop and strengthen their identity of who they are. Work from that point, work from within! Let students determine their own identity and not the other way around! It is our role to play a hand in nurturing and nudging them in positive ways to see their own potential.
This is exactly what I mean by Incendiary Learning! The fire is still burning bright and Nicole has stretched in ways where she can confidently talk about the learning experience….. long after ‘the unit.’ Nicole has led her learning and is proud of what she has achieved. Agency…… yeah, true Agency at its very core! This is Nicole now in Grade 7 doing a photo shot for this very piece. The relationship and connection seems just like yesterday, still very much alive too!
Again and again…. keep our eye on the ball!
“In order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen.”
“Lean into the uncomfortable.”
“Having the courage to be imperfect.”
“Letting go of who we think we should be and be who we really are.”
“What makes you vulnerable, makes you beautiful.”
This all sounds very nice. Very easy to say, yet quite difficult to actually do – especially, for people who work in schools.
Schools are very good at developing the head. We spend so much time thinking about thinking and developing ideas and perspectives. While there is a strong argument that this is important and thinking has an important place in what we do, we need to also develop the heart in terms of our interactions with our peers and students.
We can think about things and solve problems, but it is nothing unless we are developing feelings and emotions to connect every one of us.
It is this deep connection that is inside of us all. This allows us to be compassionate and also have the courage to be more vulnerable.
This made me think about how I could deepen my connection with the people I work with. This would ultimately improve our relationships, trust and as a way of being better at what we do.
How can I strengthen my relationships with those that I spend so much time with?
The answer is being more vulnerable. If we reveal more of ourselves at work, so that people get to know us better, wouldn’t this spur on others to be more comfortable around us too?
As teachers, we really do fear letting other people see us. We hide so much away and keep it locked up. We sometimes get to see people differently outside of school, if we are lucky.
We don’t want our students to hide away, do we? Of course not!
We all need to get better at being playful at work, lower the walls and bring in the real you to work. Show your personality, share things beyond the transactional stuff that is meaningless and empty. Otherwise, we just take things too seriously. We become too stiff at work because we are too busy to get to know each other better.
Being more vulnerable gives others permission to also drop their guard a bit. Schools would be so much more fun to work in if we could develop more compassion, connection and courage by being more outward and vulnerable with one another. How else do you get to know each other?
Do you hide yourself or show the real you in the work place?