Learn Us

I’m at the School Reform Initiative’s Winter Meeting in New York for the next few days. This meeting serves me professionally in that it re-connects me with the work of Critical Friends Groups writ large- an important reminder to reflect, to ask questions, to make myself “fiercely committed” to equity and to kids. It serves me personally because it provides an opportunity to see some folks I wouldn’t otherwise and to renew myself with good food, lots of sleep, and my own personal bathroom that I don’t have to share with my entire family.

This morning the meeting kicked off with a performance by a group of students. I didn’t catch the school and I’m hoping fervently that someone will get the video up on youtube so I can link to it, but the final line resonated with me.

We need you to learn us.

Now, I’ve learned lots of things over the years. I’ve learned professionally on topics from Assessment to the Zone of Proximal Development. I’ve learned how to drive a standard transmission vehicle and bake bread and make a transatlantic phone call. I’ve learned mountains of stuff in my 40-odd years of living. But this drew me up short.

We need you to learn us.

Never before have I heard such a direct, straightforward declaration that the “stuff” of education- the pedagogy and the methodology and the assessments and the structures- that all of that is secondary to the kids in our care and who. they. are. We cannot use that until we learn them. Who they are. Why they are similar to who we were as kids and how they are completely different beings. What they need from us and what they don’t need from us. Knowing them- really knowing them as more than a series of numbers and demographic variables- would allow us to find the simple, elegant solutions to our own fumblings in their service. We might be able not to do every single new innovation on the off-chance that one would work, instead selecting carefully chosen tools to support them as they grow.

We need you to learn us.

Sounds pretty simple to me. Who’s ready to get started?


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