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!
I love change. And I have fallen for Africa, hard. Let me tell you why. Change offers something different and as international educators we are very fortunate to be in an occupation where the door is a revolving one, for those who don’t get stuck and you know who you are.
Moving from Thailand to Kenya was always going to be different – one of the main reasons I came here. The warmth of Africa is immediate. Being the ‘new teacher’ you always wonder who it is you are going to be working with. Who are the ones that I will mostly connect with or will form an alliance with? I have finally arrived at a school that values people. People first. The first two days were very different to what I have experienced. The whole teaching staff (Secondary and Junior School) went on an overnight trip together. Why? It’s simple to bond and connect. I know this sounds very obvious and a lot of schools do it in their own way, but this felt very different for reasons I am still trying to make sense of.
The school offered the space for us to be together. The staff made the effort and time to speak, really listen and connect. We played games, sat around the fire and sang songs, danced, told stories. We went hiking and put tents up together in the pouring rain, even more fun. Everything we did was another opportunity to meet someone different and learn about them and their story. This place got it right. We weren’t herded into a lecture theater and then broke away into our isolated teams for planning meetings. We prioritized what is more important – people.
I know that my interactions and relationships will be very different when the students officially arrive at school because I am comfortable with the people I now work with. This will only deepen and build a stronger, more personalized relationship, because I know more about who they are as people.
Already, I have supported teachers (with outside events i.e farewell, social drinks) because these people are my new family and home away from home. I am excited because now I know what it feels like when staff members are much more than that.
“People are people through other people.”