The past 6 weeks have initiated a great deal of conversation about learning, schools and education. If we were to dive in, those three things are somewhat separate and unique. Learning is generally agreed upon as the seminal idea. While its definition seems to vary, the consensus would be that it is the mandate of schools to provide opportunities to learn. Of course, learning is happening with our without a building with varying degrees of success to be sure.
After interviewing over a dozen people and having numerous other conversations, reading posts online, I’m wondering if we’re forgetting what the real advantage, indeed the unfair advantage of school really is and I don’t think it’s purely about learning.
As school systems begin to rethink how things will look in both the near future and beyond, they are certainly considering more opportunities for students to continue to learn from home. For a segment of parents, they are finding value in reducing travel, spending more time with their children and giving them autonomy over their time. Obviously these are many of the same reasons people have chosen to home school their children for years.
When we reflect and examine those children who are finding success at the moment, even if we set aside the privilege around access, well-being and support they have, we might be tempted to consider the efficiency and focus they are experiencing. I can attest that for many of the students I taught online for years, they spoke about these two elements is a primary benefit for online learning. And while they certainly have their value, I’m not convinced this is what schools ought to be thinking about. Learning is obviously one of the promises of schools but I don’t believe it’s job one.
I interviewed Pernille Ripp and shared a story that I think capsulized what school ought to be and noticed that the learning is secondary.
School is about community, connection and just being. Yes, it’s about learning but if you ask kids what they miss, they aren’t going to say learning. Learning can and will happen with or without schools. We didn’t have schools 200 years ago and people still were learning. What schools do best is create community, they create space for people to just be. We want to provide spaces where all children and adults feel like they have equal and equitable opportunities to learn but more so equal chances to be seen and heard and to belong.
This post is to remind me and others that while we will always work to provide better opportunities to learn, we have a greater obligation to provide great opportunities to be and to be together. I’m way less worried about our abilities to create learning opportunities but more concerned that we create and value great communities.