Practica: What if I don’t know?


When I first went to school, teachers knew everything. When I first started training and teaching I thought I knew something, but as time went on I realized I knew less and less, and now, after half a century, performing in learning environments, I know that I don't know what I don't know, and I'm pretty sure I don't know much about what I think that I know that I know. I also realize that, depending on the cultural group or client that I am serving, the expectations of knowing what I know and even knowing what I don't know can be overwhelming and disheartening.

I suppose there are many ways to address this in dealing with others, but first I have had to adopt a philosophy by which I label myself as "learner–in–chief" when it comes to facing eager and not so eager learners. In other word, not diminishing what I think I know, but using it as a stepping stone to what I want to know more of, modeling the kind of curiosity that helps me both listen well and learn whatever I can, whenever I can, and, most of all, from whomever I can–and these latter are usually the students. "Walking the talk” in this way makes me realize that learning is mostly about learning to learn, and learning to learn together through high-quality contact and exchange.

As a new academic semester comes along and this next week will open the rentrée scolaire, I also realize that many education systems are not necessarily constructed for optimum interaction and learning, if ever they were. Commodification is steadily invading, threatening learning ROI with financial ROI. Larger classes, inflexible learning environments, disappearing textbooks and untamed technology. However, I suspect that this shift may force us to be creative in ways that we did not have to be earlier, so I am looking forward to the next months to discovering the often-unseen resources that students bring with them, learning how to learn from them and create processes and contexts in which that learning can be shared with each other. And… perhaps here, hearing from my colleagues on what is learning and what is not.

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