A few weeks ago, Education Reimagined’s staff and Advisory Board had the pleasure of visiting Avalon School in St. Paul, Minnesota. Because of the generosity of the Avalon educators and learners, we experienced a full-day at Avalon through the eyes of learners. This shared experience provided many insights for us individually and collectively.
Avalon is a learner-centered environment founded by teachers 16 years ago. It was a gift to see a site where learner-centeredness is the prevailing context for everyone in the community. They are truly a community of learners who are humble in the challenges they face, persistent in their stand for each learner, and courageous in their trust of learners’ capacity to own their own learning.
During the visit, I was struck by each learner’s description of their learning experience. Over and over again, I heard the words freedom, responsibility, and relationship. These are the same words we’ve heard again and again from learners in learner-centered environments all across the country.
Reflecting on these words, I recognized how they so clearly framed what learner-centered education means and feels like from a learner’s perspective. Freedom is felt when young people know they are trusted by their mentors. Responsibility is learned and internalized when agency is supported. And, real relationship is cultivated when learners are surrounded by adults who believe and know that learning happens by and with a learner, not to them.
From an outside observer’s perspective, those three words might not always shine through. When learners are still discovering how to take responsibility for their own learning, at any given moment, an observer might see them missing goals, giving up, or checking out. But, if you check back in at another point, those same learners could be celebrating success after failure, getting back on the horse, or being deeply inspired to move forward with velocity. The path in learner-centered environments is not linear, nor one of uninterrupted success, but it is one where learners are fully in the game. Kids are seen and known as the humans they are, discovering how to be creative, resilient, collaborative, lifelong learners.
Here’s to the courage of learner-centered educators to trust learners, laying the groundwork for them to become courageous, joyful learners in the midst of success and failure.
Enjoy the issue!
P.S. Check out the three sessions, including the closing keynote, we’ll be hosting at iNACOL Symposium 2017.