Is there really only one way to do it?
Life always offers us plenty of learning moments, especially when we are mindful and present. My good buddy, Ross Halliday, wrote a great guest blog post on my website back about a year ago that emphasized the importance of teaching with your head, your heart, and your hands. In the blog post, Ross also talked about the importance of having our 'learning goggles' always turned on. Learning goggles is a term coined by Zoe Elder in her book Full on Learning which Ross had read and recommended to me.
Learning goggles refers to the idea that life offers us a plethora of opportunities in which we can learn something new each and every day by observing the world around us. Whether it be through daily interactions with others, books or articles we are reading, obstacles and challenges we face, or those chance meetings with people on the street, there is always something to be learned if we keep our learning goggles turned on.
Being aware of the world around me and taking it all in has allowed me to open my mind and to learn many new things that are immediately applicable in my teaching and in my personal life. As a lifelong learner myself, I am always inspired to learn as much as I can by those around me. I have been extremely lucky to spend the last week in Scotland, playing golf and enjoying the stunning landscape and interesting culture. I am fortunate to have connected with a local golf legend who has contributed so much to golf in this region of Scotland.
His name is Mike Robson. He holds numerous course records, has played with some of the very best European touring pros, and organizes loads of prestigious golf events for young people who visit Scotland from different places around the world. I have played golf every day with Mike this week and amazingly it was Twitter that brought us together.
Golf is such a tricky and technically demanding game. As technology continues to change everything about the world around us, it has had a huge impact on golf as well. Apps and other forms of technology allows golf swings to be broken down and analyzed in such intricate detail. Many players are so caught up in this technology and are in constant pursuit of the perfect golf swing. When you look at current pros from around the world it is difficult to tell one swing apart from another at times as there seems to be just one technically perfect way to swing the golf club.
I'm not going to go into great detail here about the technically perfect way that experts teach how to swing a club. All you need to know is that Mike doesn't do any of that. From his grip to his stance and follow through, he does it all his own way and has done so for his entire career. And never once has it stopped him from achieving excellence.
When I think about the way that Mike swings the golf club and the ways, as educators, we are told are the best ways to teach, I can draw some very important conclusions. What does getting the job done mean? As educators, if we are to fully engage young people and allow them every opportunity to succeed, what might we need to do better? How can we nurture and embrace individual uniqueness? How can we help very unique and talented students thrive and flourish? How much talent out there has been squashed due to every drop of uniqueness being squeezed out of some young people?
When I think of a curriculum and all of its subject areas, I see so many amazing ways to let kids flourish. They certainly need guidance and direction, there is no doubt about this. However, I have personally observed all too many times in the past, actions by teachers that stifle uniqueness and emphasize conformity. Mike Robson, a great man and amazing golfer has reinforced within me a need to write about this topic. We must allow young people to be their unique selves and to flourish in ways that best suit their aptitudes and abilities. We must create as many authentic opportunities as possible that emphasize empathy, compassion, and true ownership of learning.
I want you to think about students you have who are very unique and like to do things their own way. Are they able to get the job done? Are they engaged when doing so? Are you teaching them only one way to get the job done or are you allowing them the freedom to get it done their own way? Easier said than done, yes! However, this blog post is just to get you thinking about this topic and evaluating your own stance on it. Would love to hear your comments.