When you walk into your school, what do you see? Are kids motivated to learn? Do you see effort and persistence? Are teachers excited about all the kids in the school? Just as the Iceberg Illusion by Sylvia Duckworth, @sylviaduckworth, shows, sometimes we only showcase success after learning has happened. This post is about creating a culture of learning that is visible in your school as learning is happening.
Why do we need to do that? The idea of school is changing. It has to now because the world has changed and keeps changing. Life for our kids is so different than it was ten or even five years ago. For learners to grow and flourish, we need to create learning environments where every child is recognized as a learner while they are learning. Some kids never get showcased or recognized. A culture that values every learner will empower them to discover the joy of learning.
“Culture has been defined as ‘the way we do things around here.”
Schools have been doing things the same way for hundreds of years. Culture change or shift is defined as lasting changes to the shared ways of thinking, beliefs, values, procedures, and relationships with the stakeholders. A school needs trust in changing beliefs, values, and relationships. Change is a difficult process. There are so many types of relationships in schools that impact how people think about school. Teachers and leaders are learners, too.
“If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow.” John Dewey
Here are 18 ways several authors shared in their books how teachers and leaders can celebrate learning as the culture:
Recognize the joy happening right now in your school
I chose a few of Dean Shareski’s @shareski suggestions in his book, Embracing a Culture of Joy: How Educators Can Bring Joy to their Classroom Everyday, on capturing and sharing the joyful moments:
- When the bell rings and students don’t leave because they are in the midst of an engaging conversation.
- When students are fully attentive as the teacher reads them a story.
- When students cheer at the success of a third try at a science experiment.
- When a teacher asks students about their soccer game.
- When a student solves a difficult problem.
- When a student comes in early to work on a project.
- When a teacher acknowledges a student as an expert.
Be the Change
According to Eric Sheninger @E_Sheninger and Tom Murray @thomascmurray in their book, Learning Transformed: 8 Keys to Designing Tomorrow’s Schools, Today, here are a few of the strategies they suggest for leaders to help colleagues begin the process of changing their professional practice:
- Lead by example even when (initially) it might be a lonely place. Real change comes from colleagues modeling expectations for one another.
- Share current research and practices that support the change you are championing.
- Encourage colleagues who might be resistant to change to attend professional learning opportunities with you. At the very least, make sure you share your experiences during a faculty meeting or in personal conversations.
- Help others see the value of the change on their own.
- Be patient. Like you would your students, treat your colleagues with respect and remember how satisfying and rewarding it is when you help students succeed.
- Get your students involved. There is no better way, in our opinion, to convince educators to change than when they can see firsthand the impact it has on kids.
Begin with Reflection
I chose a few of Pernille Ripp’s @pernilleripp, suggestions in her book, Passionate Learners: How to Engage and Empower your Students, on how teachers can reflect on making learning visible:
- Film your teaching. Are you talking more than your learners? Are they not listening or were you too focused on covering the curriculum?
- Have students time for you. Set the timer for 10 minutes and when it goes off, stop talking. If you need more time, negotiate with your students.
- Give them time to be experts. Find out what your learners are passionate about. Then facilitate opportunities for them to share their expertise.
- Stop answering all of their questions (or at least some of them). Ask a question back instead of answering or refusing to answer. Ask something like “How will you find out?” and maybe keep going by asking “How else can you find out?” Also, wait and see if other students share the answer or help another student.
- Don’t stop asking yourself the hard questions. Would you still like being a learner in your classroom? Trust in yourself and your ability to create a better environment for all the learners who are in your class. Push yourself forward so that you do not become stuck in a routine. Learners change every year and so should our approach.
I want to come back to the idea of the Iceberg Illusion from Sylvia Duckworth at the start of this post. What is the culture you see when you go to your school? What are you missing? Is it only about the successes you see or is it the learning culture that happens every day? How can you make learning visible so every child is valued?
“If culture changes, everything changes.” Michael Fullan
Thank you, Dean Shareski, Eric Sheninger, Tom Murray and Pernille Ripp for sharing your writing and ideas with the world! I highly recommend educators and those in my PLN to read your books. Thank you, Sylvia Duckworth, for giving me permission to use your drawing in this post. For more information about her work, please go to sylviaduckworth.com.
If you have any tips, resources, or comments on creating a learning culture, I welcome you to share below.