March 10, 2021

Here are some comments I hear all of the time from teachers, principals, superintendents, and anyone else that aspires to be learner-centered.

“Where do I start?”

“There is too much to do.”

“How do I not get overwhelmed?”

Let’s get something off the table right now…these are not excuses! I believe these are all valid concerns that are impacting people taking action. As you know from my previous posts, doing something to become learner-centered is much better than doing nothing. Remember, starting small, starting simple, starting with doing something manageable begins your journey.

This is not a blog post that is going to tell you what to do. That would be a little bit presumptuous. However, I do have suggested questions for you that will help you decide what is best for you and your learners. I suggest you ask yourself the following questions to help you start simple, small, and smart.

3 Questions Teachers Can Ask Themselves

“What can I do today that will show my learners that I look at them as a human, not just a cog in the system?”

A learner-centered teacher has thrown out the old-fashioned view that kids are numbers on a spreadsheet. They also know that a learner is more than a “whole child”. Learner-centered teachers embrace the humanity of their learners and themselves. ego is checked at the door. They recognize that no one (including their learners) is perfect. Embrace the imperfection! For the love of God remember we are dealing with kids that are trying to figure out life.

Who is one colleague that I can bounce my learner-centered ideas around with?”

Finding a “partner in crime” for you to share your dreams, aspirations, and challenges with is essential. Most educators are social beings. How many people reading this have been at a social gathering with other teachers and you end up talking about your classroom or kids the whole time? Count me guilty of that! Just find someone in your school that you can talk with about being learner-centered. Simple. Small. Smart.

“How can a ‘lead up’?”

Okay teachers, hang on to your hats on this one. You may have a vision for learner-centeredness and your principal or upper administration is not as knowledgable as you are about the importance of being learner-centered. How can you help them see your vision? You can invite them into your room to see the awesomeness you are doing.

You can suggest articles and books to them.

You say a lot about your priorities by conferences and other PD opportunities you apply for.

Simple. Small. Smart.

3 Questions Principals and Superintendents Can Ask Themselves

“Who are the 5 teachers in my building that I can do a book study with about being learner-centered?”

Okay, okay, I know I am in love with book studies and I suggest them all of the time. I love book studies because THEY WORK! If you want a learner-centered school, then you must create the conditions for yourself and your staff to be a learning organization. Do not allow “learning” to stop for your staff on the last day of their student teaching. Inform them of the importance of being uncompromisingly learner-centered.

“What can I learn today that will help me become more learner-centered?”

Take 15 minutes and read a blog, an article or start a book. Listen to a podcast. (Shameless plug, my new podcast, The Learner-Centered Leader, will be released within the next 6 weeks) Do something to shake up your mental model of what schooling and education can be.

“What classrooms are examples of great learning in my building?”

List those classrooms.

Go visit those classrooms.

Talk to the teachers of those classroom.

Learn from those classrooms.

Simple, Small, Smart.

The Bottom Line

Change is hard. Change takes a lot of work. You must believe that change in your classroom, school, or district can happen. Do not get overwhelmed with the enormity of the task. Start Small. Start Simple, Start Smart.

Good Luck!

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About the author 

Tom Butler, Ph.D.

I believe that public education is for the public good and that education should be uncompromisingly learner-centered. The New Learning Ecosystem points us away from the old model of education that does not serve kids well. All educators regardless of where they work can help lead and contribute to the New Learning Ecosystem.

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