Knowing and Learning: Hard to do both at the same time.


One clear challenge this year working within the school is change.

Habits, routines, spaces… ‘what to expect’ is hard to predict. Change requires learning. Learning is an expensive proposition. If knowing is sure, set, predictable, strong, and an edifice to our past… learning is a strong current that has just run into and around our knowing - uninvited and slow in it’s flooding of our knowing with evidence that there’s cracks in the foundation. It’s ok! This is a school, after all, we are learners, and the learning is inviting us to see the current of our times.

The current of this change is literally the means by which the life of the school is for the life of those we care for and will care for,

When we enter the year with a wallet full of “knowing how to”, learning is going to ask that we empty our wallet of what we know in exchange for learning something new. We are asked - in a time of change - to sort through what we know, and make sure it’s necessary. And, as we are in a current of changes we have to be careful to avoid trading in the currency of knowing. Yes, we will make agreements, we will find ways to work together, we will come to understand how to make our work smoother. This is a process of standing under, of being on the receiving end of experience - not an experience of control or power because we know the ‘right’ or ‘correct’ facts.

Learning how to be human is an expensive proposition because it often concludes with you having less in the category of “I️ know” at the end. A wise person isn’t full of themselves with knowledge. A wise person is wisened by experience. Under-standing is our proposition. We are less “sure” of something when we have learned - because we have gained the wisdom of seeing multiple perspectives. “Sure-ness” is not our proposition - understanding is our proposition.

The paradox is that information is cheap and understanding is expensive. Learning - which requires understanding - is not about holding information as a powerful purveyor of knowledge. Learning is the willingness to “stand under” that which we study. We would ease our confusion in a time of change to recognize how adaptation and humble “standing under” is necessary to seeing a way in which our current experience is teaching us. Think of learning as “the unbidden encounter with information or experience that requires a change”.

Does that sound familiar?

Learning how to do this work well, and how to do this work together, will require a great deal from us. It will require learning how to do something we have never done before. This is the exciting, life-affirming prospect of our work together. In fact, knowing can be the adversary of learning. If “I know how to do this work”, if “I️ know” the best way to approach something, how am I️ going to see what you have to offer?

If we have an experience - and I am willing to pause and wonder with you about what lies before us, then the way we move forward is as equals, wrestling the challenges before us as allies. Our differing perspectives are not in opposition. Our differing perspectives are the resources which fuel the solution.

That which is before us is a formidable prospect: ‘school’ and 'teaching' is an activity woefully underfunded and generally misunderstood. A school and the adults at the school are the primary guidance for most of the waking working hours of a child’s life. And we each care deeply about these children. These young people  are the seeds and sprouts of our cultural legacy and our cultural liberation from injustice.  The peace that we seek to support in the world is in the hands of these children inasmuch as we - the adult guides - are able to learn how to work together. “Learn” here is an expensive and active verb, costing us much of what we “know” in order to come to an understanding of how to be in peaceful relationships with ourselves and each other.

This requires a transformation of the humanity and spirit in which we approach each other. Much less of it is about “knowing the right way” than it is about willingness to find the way together. That process of finding will require us to empty our pockets of the tricks and tools, resources and experience we brought to the table. We will lay tools there - our knowing of how to be a professional educator - to be seen by colleagues and our students. We are asked to be willing to pick over what understandings and approaches are still earning their keep.

The way we “used” our tools and tricks in the past may in fact be causing conflict in how to attend to the vocation that we have together. As we grow this school, we must attend to our learning. Our lessening emphasis on individually knowing what is right will require an orientation to learning as a process of letting go of the tools that are no longer earning their keep, no longer matching up with what is around us. An adult process of learning is being willing to let go of what we are holding on to, and availability to consider a novel perspective.

Feeling the tension of learning is often uncomfortable, challenging, and deeply rooted in an unbidden encounter with a disruptive external event.

Change requires learning.

Mature willingness for learning is not a celebratory event built around getting to the mountaintop - learning the tools of being human takes a posture of humble pause, quiet, and reflection.


An orientation to learning that will serve us in these times of change:  

  • We work to create an environment that is cooperative and synergistic, and we are wiling to throw out what is detritus, storage, clutter, and creating obstacle.

  • We understand that working together we can accomplish more than working alone.

  • Identify that in order for us to work together, we will each repeatedly and individually be asked to step out of a realm of individual "knowing we are right" in order to create a wider circle of cooperation and ultimately a more comfortable place for everyone involved - including our children.