Life Long Learner – February 13, 2013

Last Monday and Tuesday I had the privilege of attending an education conference in San Jose, put on by an outstanding organization called The New Teacher Center. The goal of the conference was to inform Principals and Mentors about best practices with regard to working with teachers who beginning their careers in the classroom. I attended six 90 minute sessions and listened to 4 speeches from some of the leading figures in education today.

At the event, some of the topics I was exposed to were: equity in the classroom, effective classroom management, common core standards, the relationship between anxiety and math instruction and building a positive school culture. The whole experience was inspirational and invigorating. Being in the presence of 700 people who deeply care about quality education was a moving experience. If you want to know more about what I learned, stop in to my new office (yay!) and I will be glad to share what I learned with you.

My message for you today, however, is this: learning is not something that ends when we leave school, it is something that should continue throughout our lives and it’s something we should make time for every day. For the learner, the benefits are many and are fairly obvious. But what we may not realize is that when we as adults make an effort to keep learning and we expose our children to that fact, we model something invaluable for them. We model the actions of a life long learner.

I remember when I was young, my father, a Graduate School professor, would take me with him when he went to conferences with his colleagues. Though I was not conscious of it at the time, seeing adults gathered together listening to lectures and engaging in intellectual conversation made an indelible impression on me. I saw that learning did not have to be a chore nor a tedious means to an end. It was, rather, an exciting process that made people feel good about themselves.

In my own family we recently learned that our daughter, who is in 7th grade, is doing poorly in some of her classes. One of the ways that my wife and I are trying to address this issue is by setting aside one hour every weeknight for all of us to learn. For our daughter that means homework or reading or studying for tests. For me, it means turning off the Warriors game and working on my yearly goal of improving my Spanish. I found a great computer-based program called Duolingo and each night I am practicing while my daughter does her homework.

I know that all of you are engaged in some type of learning. By virtue of being a Beechwood parent, you are taking parenting classes. Maybe, in addition to that you are taking on training at work or taking classes to get an advanced degree. Maybe you would like to give Duolingo a try to improve your English or Spanish! Whatever it is that you are learning, I hope you will talk to your child about it. It will be good for them to hear about what you enjoy and maybe the parts that you find challenging as well. Through these conversations you can send an important message: learning is something successful people do their whole lives.

-Mr. Laurance