This is How I'm Advancing My Learner-Centered Leadership in College

Learner Voices   06 November 2018
By Anya Smith-Roman, Georgia Tech University


It’s always possible to effect change; a good starting place is as simple as sharing our individual stories.

Anya Smith-Roman
Young Learner


This article was originally published on Anya Smith-Roman’s personal blog, Pinya Bananas. It has been repurposed for Education Reimagined’s audience.

In 2017, I graduated from a learner-centered environment that I was fortunate enough to help transform. Unfortunately, my experience in higher education is not so learner-centered. The transition from a learner-centered environment back to a school-centered one has been shell-shocking.

I went from working with clients from the CDC, City of Sandy Springs, and Chick-Fil-A, to sitting in long lectures and taking multiple-choice tests that make up 80% of my grade. Navigating my education beyond the learner-centered K-12 system I had thrived in makes me feel like an outsider in the Education Transformation Movement. However, as time passes, I realize there are ample ways to forward the movement, even as an “outsider.”

I Don’t Have to Study Education to Work in Education

Despite selecting a college that leaned much more school-centered, I always knew I wanted to stay involved with this movement to transform education. It might come as a surprise then to know I’m not studying education in college. I believe part of the problem with our current education system is that we’re still teaching new teachers how to teach in a traditional way.

Therefore, I’m studying Business Administration with a concentration in Leading and Managing Human Capital. I believe if we think of schools as innovative businesses, it will help the nation make this paradigm shift together. As I dig into my studies, I hope to learn more about change theory, risk management, social entrepreneurship, 21st-century leadership, and more so that I can apply that knowledge to help consult with schools trying to transform to a more learner-centered model.

Apart from my studies, I believe any education stakeholder wanting to transform the education system has a responsibility to stay connected with the larger national conversations happening on this topic. Being in college, it is harder to find opportunities to create change in my personal learning environment. But, I’m still finding ways to effect change in other learning environments around the country.

Making My Voice Heard Everywhere I Go

I contribute to this national movement through Twitter and Slack conversations, attending conferences, blogging, and serving as Editor-in-Chief for Trailblazers, a student-driven magazine about the Education Transformation Movement. I believe as a young learner who graduated from a learner-centered environment, I have a unique perspective that needs to be shared.

A few years ago I stated in a blog post, “When teachers talk about learner-centered education people ask, ‘Where’s the evidence of this working?’ but when students talk about learner-centered education, we are the evidence. It is working.” This idea has served as my north star for the past few years. People want to know about the evidence, so I need to share my stories to prove just how much learner-centered education is bettering the lives of all kinds of students.

I Am the Evidence

Since going to college, I have realized just how much more prepared I am for the world than many of my peers—and I fully attribute that to my K-12 experiences in a learner-centered environment. I have a deeper sense of self. I can articulate my passions and goals in a comprehensive way. And, I have ample experience in project management and consultancy work that will be helpful for any field.

Professors have given me feedback about how impressed they have been with my ability to send professional emails from day one. Advisors have admired my initiative to set up dozens of interviews to help me figure out my major. Friends have been amazed by the events I’ve been able to attend around the country due to my expansive network. I sincerely believe I wouldn’t have had any of these important life skills if it wasn’t for my learner-centered high school. In traditional schools, learners don’t spend much time learning about self-awareness, goal setting, professional communication, or taking initiative. Why not?

I hope one day all students get the opportunity to learn under a more innovative model of education and gain the experiences and skills that I have been lucky enough to develop. I stay involved in the world of education for the future of those students—the ones who may not even know there are other options of schooling available. I’d love to see higher education become partners in making this change happen. But, for now, I choose to focus my efforts on the K-12 system where I have the most connections and background knowledge.

I hope other learners—of all ages—can come to realize that their environment doesn’t determine the level of participation they can have in the Education Transformation Movement. It’s always possible to effect change; a good starting place is as simple as sharing our individual stories.

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