Thursday, March 30, 2017

Learning is Messy

"Learning is messy, and we have to be comfortable with risk, failure, growth, and revision." 
~George Couros, The Innovator's Mindset, p. 131

Learning is messy, and sometimes the process that one must go through in order to learn something new, something different, is even messier! 

What makes learning messy? 

It looks different for different people. We all learn at different paces and in different ways. There is no cookie cutter way to learn or to go through the process of learning, and there is definitely no guarantee that I will not fail before I succeed. Since there is no prescribed formula for learning, my approach to a situation can be completely different from a colleague's approach, yet we both still learn, we both still move forward. This causes a MESS and messes can be difficult. 

I have two girls, I can remember when they were beginning to prepare their own snacks and pack their own lunches. It was messy. Perhaps there was more peanut butter on the counter than on the bread, and the jelly may have dripped onto the floor, but they went through the process of making their own snack and with practice, there is less "mess" and they have become more independent in meal preparation. At 12 and 9 years old they can successfully use the microwave, stove top and oven too (I still assist my youngest with the oven)! I could have saved the headache of cleaning up dried jelly off the floor or wiping up peanut butter off of the counter by making the snacks and lunches myself, but they were eager to help. Who am I to squelch that independence? 

In schools and classrooms there is no peanut butter or sticky jelly to clean up, but sometimes it is hard to sit back and watch or work through the difficult process of learning. As a teacher, it is difficult to restrain from giving too much assistance and information. It is difficult to watch the students struggle, but the learning that can take place when students are allowed to work through difficult processes can be beautiful. 

I have facilitated several BreakoutEDU experiences for teachers and students. I totally struggle with restraining the impulse to give too much information or too many clues too soon! I want the students or teachers to be successful in breaking out, so my initial thought is give a hint, or point them in the right direction. After a year, I have realized there is power in the process of struggling to figure something out, and when a group is successful on their own, their experience is much more meaningful. 

As an instructional leader it can be difficult to embrace each teacher's individual pace. Maybe if we are all on the same page, at the same time, going at the same pace, it will be easier to manage or prettier to look at, but when we focus on keeping teachers at the same place, at the same time, we can keep some teachers from exploring new possibilities while at the same time dragging others along for a ride they just are not ready for. 

We are all in a continual process of learning. Our paces are not the same, some strides are longer, but as long as we are all moving forward, we are heading in the right direction.