The first day of school is just around the corner. Children are preparing for a new school year, already missing the more relaxed days of summer yet eager for what lies ahead. Teachers are doing the same. Many have spent the summer months reading, learning and adding to their toolbox. All of us are learning all of the time. Some of the lessons we learn last for a moment, others a lifetime.
While attending a workshop this summer, I had the opportunity to explore the idea of powerful learning. A simple exercise gave each participant the chance to share a story about power learning – an experience during which the participant learned something of value that has stayed with him or her. As we reflected on each of our experiences, a few common characteristics became evident. In order for powerful learning to take place, trust, authenticity and a deep emotional connection have to be present. Some stories were shared that were a bit painful – unpleasant even – and the “student” entered the learning experience kicking and screaming. They weren’t necessarily eager to learn. However, when it became clear that the mentor or teacher was their ally in helping them move toward a new level or new understanding, they learned the lesson, expanded their knowledge and moved to the next plane. This was true whether the learning was about school, sports, hobbies or life lessons. It didn’t matter.
We all went to school. We all had good, bad and mediocre experiences while there. We all had gifted and talented teachers and others who were just OK. We know the difference. No matter the school, no matter the teacher, no matter the student, we know what it means to learn. We know how we felt and can recall the emotions present at that time. Education does not have a beginning nor an end. Learning takes place all of the time; the conditions must be right. As we get ready for another year of school, it is critical to take the time to prepare the environment, consider the children entering our classrooms and get to know each of them. These are the tools needed to build trust and connections – the tools of powerful learning.