What is a true learning community? I participated in Action Research on this very topic last year. And it was something that looked different for every set of participants. People were questioning such an array of dynamics, that it really got the reflective juices flowing.
It paused me for a long while……. to listen to what was important in my own heart. It’s where everything I take myself comes from. There are those who engage in learning, and seek academic structure to their thoughts…… seek clarification…… seek support of research. Me? Sometimes I just plunge my thinking straight into the depths of my soul, and find what it is I am being pushed to do. But listening, true listening…… I think after reading Carla Rinaldi’s article , “The Pedagogy of Listening” <read>…… is perhaps one of the closest times I’ve come to understanding the meaning of life.
Sometimes that way of being makes me feel so highly inadequate. I roll along with players who are more educated, more knowledgable, more….. well….. more just about everything! And for a while now, I’ve been thinking about what the steps are for me to take to feel a little less inadequate in the world which I find myself.
That is, until just a couple of days ago……. when the epiphany of my life, and perhaps my place in life, came crashing to me……. not from educated books, not from research, not from studying……. but from three small children.
So herein lies the very brief account, which spanned over the lifetime of two whole days!
Day one: Two young toddler aged children, building their ‘togetherness’ as they raced around the yard with oversized trucks – almost as big as they themselves. The joy as these children did nothing more than enjoy the company of one another, laugh, exchange looks of ‘knowing’. Well, it was really all that the experience called for.
But wait! There’s more! A whole lot more! As with most experiences we all have in life, this one came with its obstacle. In the shape of a sandstone block wall. In order for this game to continue, this wall needed to be climbed. Literally! And, as happens when young children are involved, there is a carved step…… which can in itself be a challenge for a young toddler to negotiate. But getting a truck the size of you up that step? A challenge to say the least.
So, the older of these toddlers, had this all worked out. Get yourself up first, and drag the truck up behind you. This is a concept that comes with some deeper thinking. Because most of the time you are getting that truck around – it’s from behind. And pushing a truck up a wall – well, let’s just say there are some acronyms that match!
Back on track – the slightly older of these children, who got it all sussed – helped the younger one not once, not twice, but three times during the course of this long interactive play. (And anyone who says toddler aged children do not have sustained focus has never given them time to have so…. !!!!).
Two Days Later: The younger of the two children already spoken, is now engaging in almost identical play, with a child a few months younger again. And once again, the truck pushing took them to the wall…… This time, she knew what to do to get up! She had learned from her peer just two days before, when he helped her. So up she went, then turned to drag the truck up with her. Success! And triumph written all over that little face!
But what happened next is the heart of the whole story. Her new counterpart stood at the bottom, trying in desperation to pick his truck up the wall. And then, without skipping a bit, she turned back from her own truck, to drag the second one up too. And then after scaling the wall, the two went on their merry way. Laughing and exchanging the special glances, that only toddlers know how.
Children learning from children…….. learning from children…….
Did I say that was a brief account? Why of course! You should have been there…… (in my head at least!)
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m a huge advocate of learning. I’ve pushed myself through several formal qualifications over the course of my life. I was once upon a time an academic clone. But I’ve learned that there is far much more to life. And sometimes, some of the deepest learning we do, comes not from a book, a university course, or research…… but from those we choose to run trucks beside day to day.
I’m so blessed to have people in my life, that help me get my truck up the wall. Because they show me a new landscape. One that sometimes feels like it’s beyond my ability to reach.
And here, in this post is me…… who I am…… how I exist in the world. I take those things that I learn from children, and I apply them into my life. I deconstruct them, and try to work out where I can be a better person. My epiphany is to remember to ‘listen’…….
Because children….. THEY know what a true learning community is. It’s one in which we exist. Where nobody needs to be superior – we are all just “in it together”. And it’s in this space, that I get to do my finest work. Where I sometimes need help up the wall, and other times stand at the top and help get others up. But I always know this for what it is – just my turn to bring others along for the journey, that somebody else helped me to take.
Adults learning from children…… learning from children……. learning from one another……..