Schools that Train Themselves

Why schools are mechanical places of mundane activities conducted broadly by staff and teachers. It can be a buzzing learning habitat for everyone who is associated with school in smallest possible way. Such collaboration will lead to wider learnings for everyone.

We all know that a school is a place of learning. And learning comes from a yearning, a desire. How can the school create such a yearning environment is perhaps what all educators, teachers and school administration staff should wonder about.

School culture is an important ingredient to create the yearning environment which propels learning. To begin with a basic question is – Is our school culture that of learning or that of teaching”?

To answer this question with honesty we may have to first explore following questions

Question 1 – How much I am learning as a Teacher?

This question should be internalized asked by every teacher to themselves. This learning is not just about the subject but about teaching, about children and about all the stuff life (and learning) is made up of – like motivation, discipline, values, self-esteem, beliefs, feelings, creativity etc.

Question 2 : Who leads – the learner (student) or the teacher? So is the school learning led or teaching led?

Question 3 : What could happen if children took over the task of teaching and staff took over the task of learning”?

Question 4 : Do teachers learn from each other and create an environment of collaborative learning?

Often we get calls asking for teacher training. While each call is a reason to celebrate, it’s is also a reason for anguish. Does not the school already have such an amazing pool of resources (the staff) who can both design and create their own learning journey? Does a team of teachers really need another teacher? What amazing environment of learning would get created if the teachers themselves would train each other? Isn’t the (staff) group’s synergy the perfect example for children to see an interdependent ecosystem of collaborative learning?

This article hence is an appeal to all schools – to look inwards. Schools can shake it’s own resources to empower it’s own learning ambassadors. This process harnesses staff’s creativity and energy to create a school that embodies a culture of co-learning. In such an environment, we believe, yearning for learning will automatically happen.

Here are some guidelines, just in case you need some 🙂

Let’s start with six beliefs we have:

  1. Each teacher is a beautifully capable trainer.
  2. Each teacher enjoys learning.
  3. Each teacher wants to make the classroom a wonderful place for all learners.
  4. Each teacher is ready to collaborate and wants to benefit from collaboration with others (staff).
  5. The best learning for teachers does not come from outside (trainers), but from within (self and co-creation).
  6. Teachers, like anybody else, benefit from continuous learning.

(You can, if you want, generalize the above to all human beings including the children in your school)

We are not debating here whether above six are true or not. We are inviting you to visualize – what will happen if each school approached each teacher with the above perspective.

We’re also emphasizing that it is imperative that we believe in these if we want to believe in our school as not teaching, but as a learning ecosystem.

And it is equally important to communicate, in no fewer words and that too regularly, the above beliefs to the teachers – for just like children, teachers too have been unfortunately exposed to societal messaging that says ‘you are not powerful’ (among other put-downs). We need to undo that conditioning, we need to show teachers their true potential, their greatness. Let’s do that by believing in them. We would like to present a simple (and it has to be simple) learning framework for schools to follow for their teachers.

  1. Since teachers are capable, the staff room will be the one who will drive the teacher training or learning process. No external helps is required. What is required is that each teacher is involved in it – from the beginning, given the responsibility (maybe by turn) and the teachers only give the feedback to each other. There are no awards, rewards, appreciations, or chiding – only feedback.
  2. Since learning has to be continuous, and bit by bit, it is imperative that time is allocated every week for this training. Half an hour every week with all teachers or subgroups is much better training and learning than a day long program with (so called) experts once in while. (Realize most TED talks are just 20min long)
  3. Somebody (probably the principal) from the school management team needs to create buzz around this learning. Let the whole school know what the teachers are learning about. Posters in the staff room, quotations in assembly, articles, stories, videos, presentations shared via email, photocopies, WhatsApp – whatever the staff is comfortable with. The topic gets richer with all forms of incoming resources.
  4. Invite children to teach teachers (into the weekly training session). They can do small presentations or drama, bring stories, or even get teachers to do activities on the topic. Invariably for children to prepare – they would involve parents – so much better for the school – as we’re tapping more resources.

The school and the teachers need to wonder what they want to explore, teach and learn about. It could be values, multiple intelligences, pedagogical innovations, how children learn, or even how to add humor in the classroom – any topic the teachers desire is okay since yearning is learning.

Over time, as the school culture becomes a learner-led learning culture, the teachers will embrace a different role altogether – that not of a teacher, but of a facilitator. For every teacher knows that the subject matter by itself is not important, the child is; The teacher is not important, but the environment she creates is; The learning per se is not important, but what it does to the learner is.

You may also like to read – Carl Rogers on Person-Centered school