“Why Would I Want to Learn From Someone Who Doesn’t Want to Learn From Me?”

The graphic created by the 2013-2014 (Ontario Education) Minister’s Student Advisory Council has been distributed widely.  It is the “student voice” on where Ontario Schools should be going.

One section that struck me was the part that said “why would I want to learn from someone who does not want to learn from me?”

MSAC Students Future of School 2013

In the past, as John Malloy says, teachers were expected to be the “holders of the knowledge”.  They were supposed to know everything, and impart that knowledge to students.

But now, as Catherine Montreuil so eloquently states, “It is unacceptable for any child to be stuck and not learning in our schools”.

It is the teacher’s job to ensure every child is learning.

This is different from knowing everything.

Teachers do not have to solve problems of learning alone.  They can consult with outside professionals, their Professional Learning Network (which they must take time to cultivate), their colleagues, parents and students.

But to solve problems of learning successfully, they must get past the idea that they have to know everything.

Steven Katz refers to “Creating the conditions so teachers need and want to know”. (http://www.curriculum.org/k-12/en/videos/creating-the-conditions-for-demand)

As school leaders, we must make sure that all of our teachers are open to listening to what students have to say.

As teachers, we need to teach students how to respectfully and effectively question practice as we guide them toward “gradual acceptance of responsibility” for their own learning.

(Gradual ‘acceptance‘ of responsibility modified from ‘Gradual Release of Responsibility“, Frey and Frey 2008, explained in this glossary)

Question and Be Questioned


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Have you ever considered that the incidence of childhood asthma could be related to the use of antibiotics for early childhood illnesses?  It’s not a big stretch. Many of us could believe that there could be a correlation.

But have you ever considered that it might be the bacteria in the child’s intestine (changing as a result of the antibiotic doses) that are the driving force?

This was new information for me, and I heard it while listening to Dr. Brett Finlay on “Bugs ‘R Us” on CBC Radio Ideas, part of a lecture series at the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies.

What about the idea that some forms of autism are caused by changes in the composition of the intestinal bacteria?

I would never have believed that one.

Many doctors wouldn’t either, it turns out.

But one mother was completely convinced that there was a relationship between her son’s onset of symptoms of autism and the use of prescribed antibiotics.  It took quite an effort to get doctors to believe her, but indeed she was able to reverse her son’s symptoms through fecal transfers. (Dr. Brett Finlay)

We are learning that human diseases may be linked as closely to our intestinal bacteria as they are to our genetic make-up, something we would never have considered not many years ago.

We live in an information age.

 cristinacosta via Compfight cc

We can’t possibly know everything any more, even if we have titles and education that suggest we should.  People without degrees in medicine can research, observe, and deduce.  They can question their diagnosis and carefully present other possibilities.

But have you ever tried to ask your doctor about a self-diagnosis?  It’s not generally a practice welcomed by the medical profession!

One of my strong interests is the field of nutrition.  I have read extensively on the subject since high school.  When I was studying for my B. Ed., the faculty had a dietician visit us to teach us about basic nutrition. While the presenter did a great job of showing us the basics, I felt that her statements did not reflect current research.  I challenged her, politely, on some of her thinking.

After she left, my professor was livid.  How dare I challenge her professional knowledge.  How could I possibly think I might know more than she did?

question mark blog

CarbonNYC via Compfight cc

Last year, one of the people I admire and follow on Twitter, Ira David Socol (@irasocol) posted the simple statement, “The future comes from questioning everything“.

As professionals, we need to embrace conversations about our work, and we need to be open to those who challenge our practice.  Through these conversations, we learn, improve and consider solutions to problems that may not have been previously obvious.

As educational professionals, we need to encourage our students to have the confidence to respectfully and appropriately challenge authority.  It is through these conversations that we all move our learning forward.

It is through these conversations, these challenges, that we discover unlikely connections, important understandings, like the link between intestinal bacteria and brain function.

2 thoughts on ““Why Would I Want to Learn From Someone Who Doesn’t Want to Learn From Me?”

  1. I would not be where I am today if it were not for the mentors who have come into my life at different points along my personal life and my career and from my expansion and participation in my PLN. I cannot imagine where I would be in a professional and personal life without my PLN. We are a member of our students’ PLN and the foundation of any sound PLN is trust. When we trust those in our PLN we can question each other, share experiences and learn from one another. Authentic learning occurs when the teacher and the student are on the learning journey together.
    Reflect back on some of the most profound learning you have done on a personal and professional level……I would guess that you did not learn in that instance on your own and that there was at least one other personal involved in the process with you. There was give and take and openness on that journey. When we question and have meaningful discussion we are experiencing deep learning. Opening ourselves up to our students (and each other) and saying “I don’t know, let’s see figure this out together” is a lot easier said than done, especially as a classroom teacher in front of our students. By opening ourselves up, by taking this risk, by releasing some control, I suspect that the learning that results from that conversation will be very meaningful for all the participants. By modeling our curiosity, sense of adventure and honesty, we are modeling for our students the very skills they will need to be successful life-long learners. Deeper connections will be made and meaningful learning will take place and both our students and ourselves will benefit in ways that will transfer outside of our classrooms. Isn’t that our ultimate goal? Learning that transfers beyond our walls?

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