Check out this captivating short video where the folks at RSA Animate illustrates Sir Ken Robinson’s talk on Changning Education Paradigms!

If you think about your experience in school, what was it like and what kind of thinking did it encourage? How do you think the model Robinson describes effected behavior? Perhaps children complied out of fear of punishment or a desire to please. For the most part, the desired effect was probably mostly achieved–children looking and–maybe–listening (or perhaps hearing versus actual listening and retaining). Could this type of structure truly encourage people to behave in a specific way (eyes ahead, feet on the floor, seated) which results in true learning that they will go on to apply and make a difference with in this world? Or, does it encourage compliance?

This isn’t to say structure and rules should be absent–absolutely not.  Structure and rules are absolutely necessary–what if there weren’t stoplights? However, perhaps we should consider how we learn, and those of us in schools or organizations, should consider how we learn in a community. How are we, as adults, productive? Is it sitting in a chair, feet on the floor, eyes ahead for long periods of time? How much do you retain when you are in a fixed position for 15 minutes? 30 minutes? 1 hour or more?

I think about when I am at a conference or in a meeting. Even when the information is exciting, the speaker is captivating and the environment is comfortable, I have to move. I squirm and move sometimes 20 times or maybe even more in a minute. I fiddle with my shoes and sometimes, depending if it’s appropriate, I even take them off. I doodle. Yet, I listen and retain and apply the information. When I look around the room, I notice a lot of folks doing the same.  Unfortunately, many pull their phones out–for me, that crosses a line, but I think as more people who were raised with a phone in their hand at all times come into these spaces, this will become an accepted norm.  It already seems to be in some settings, which I tend to think is not a great thing, but reality nonetheless.

I think the real question is, how do we create environments and cultures where there is safety and order, yet also flexibility and room for those that don’t learn in the ways that we were raised to. It’s something that requires a teacher to be open-minded and creative with both his or her teaching style and the classroom environment that he or she creates. I do think it’s possible–yes, inevitably, there will be blips–maybe one child moves into another’s personal space if you allow children to move and/or lay down on the carpet during circle time. But isn’t that an opportunity to discuss respecting personal space? And if it continues, are there other ways you can address the isolated case without mandating everyone conform to one particular position that you see fit?

The greater, over-arching thought is that we all live and learn and love differently, which is a wonderful thing. This truth is the very reason our world has the innovation and progress that is does.  When we come into a community at any age, it can sometimes be a challenge to understand and accept the differences we all have and go on to co-exist and even thrive individually and together.

As guides for our children, it is our responsibility to teach them how to be safe, respectful of others and do what is best for them to learn and succeed. It’s imperative that we create environments where children are able to be uniquely themselves and also allow others to be uniquely themselves, in harmony. This environment most definitely appears differently across our globe, depending on the place and the people within it.

If we can strike this balance between structure and rules (both necessary) and freedom and flexibility (equally imperative for creative thought and progress), then we have a space that embraces all sorts of learning styles and personalities.  Perhaps, in this space, children can think–divergently, as Robinson describes it.  Perhaps they will become producers versus consumers.  Perhaps, they can change the world. And perhaps–they will.

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