In my office is displayed this plaque. The words, “Ancora Imparo,” mean “I am always learning.” The quote is attributed to one of the world’s greatest minds, Michelangelo, who is claimed to have lived these words until the end of his life. I keep this plaque in my office because it captures the essence of education and life. Students, teachers, parents, all of us should continually remain in “learning mode.”
At The Walker School, we believe that meaningful relationships between teachers and students will result in transformative learning. What is transformative learning? While it may be difficult to define, if you consider your own learning experience, it is likely that you can pinpoint moments where you were engaged in transformative learning.
In 1998, I participated in a teaching seminar at The Westtown School. Dr. Roland Barth, Professor of Education at Harvard University, led us through an exercise that enabled me to identify the periods in my life where my learning was most transformational. Dr. Barth gave each of us a piece of graph paper and directed us to “graph your life, from birth to present, from worst times to best times.” It was interesting to think back over one’s childhood, high school, college days, courtship and marriage, early professional career. Barth gave us ten minutes to complete the exercise, and when we were done, he asked the most penetrating question: “Now circle the three places where you learned the most.” I looked at my graph and immediately knew the answer; I learned the most during those moments when I had failed, where the graph point was at the lowest. It was a profound recognition.
Once I became acutely aware of the correlation between adversity and learning in my own life, I began to notice example of such learning in many areas. One of the world’s greatest athletes, Michael Jordan, said “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
Transformative learning happens in an environment which promotes a growth mindset, a topic that I will share more about in my next post based on outstanding research done by Dr. Carol Dweck. Transformative learning happens in an environment which is intimately scaled, where parents and teachers collaborate to cultivate each student’s spirit of wanting to know, and where mutual trust and encouragement enable students to try, fail, try again, find success, and experience transformational learning. It happens here at The Walker School.