October 19, 2021

I don’t know about you, but when I see kids having a blast in school while they are participating in well-designed learning experiences…I get fired up! Recently, I got fired up over something I saw and came up with these three principles of learner-centered leadership.

1. Kids are more than numbers. Our world today attempts to quantify everything. Because algorithms play such a large part in our world (from Amazon to Netflix, to Google), the growing consensus is that we must quantify every single behavior so we can better “understand” it.

I call bullsh*t on that little theory.

Quantifying everything takes the humanness out of our interactions. Specifically, in education, the overreliance on trying to quantify kids makes the kids nothing more than numbers that can get manipulated in some way. So here is my bit of advice for you: If you are ever called to a data analysis meeting where you are going to determine a student’s “proximal zone of development”, run (don’t walk) out the door and find somewhere to work that actually cares about kids.

2. Schools aren’t factories. This is a false narrative that has been around forever. This is not to say that there aren’t people out there that WANT schools to be factories…I am saying that learner-centered leaders don’t believe that schools are factories. Schools are filled with individual students and each student is THE MOST IMPORTANT part of someone’s life, whether that is a parent, grandparent, brother, sister, or friend. The factory narrative limits students to being just something that school “happens to” instead of a place where each individual is important.

3. Education is the bedrock of a healthy democracy. Teachers must teach from the heart. leaders must lead from the heart. Learning experiences must connect the school with the community in which the school serves. Period. If we continue down the road of over-reliance on data analysis of children and stripping away a child’s humanness, then democracy is in trouble.

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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