New Year’s resolutions aren’t something that appeal to me as I’m always creating goals, reflecting, revising, and thinking again, but I have been thinking about a couple questions that I want to ask myself quite frequently over the next year. “Where is the learning?” and “Is it relevant?”

Yesterday I spent the morning with a person I find fascinating, creative, and inspiring: my dance teacher/hairdresser. I have written before about pushing myself out of my comfort zone by taking a hip hop class, but as that was two years ago, I was reflecting yesterday about how much I have learned from this man. He is a brilliant and beautiful dancer, but also an excellent hair stylist and yet, when I asked him what were his main influences and/or poignant experiences that helped shape him into the man he is today, school wasn’t on his list nor were any of his high school teachers. What was at the top of his list, however, were his family and dance. He feels blessed that his family always supports him in whatever he wants to do with his life, but he also credits his experiences with dance for giving him skills for life.

From dance he learned how to be

  • creative and express himself through music and art
  • confident in front of a group of people (in spite of being an introvert)
  • able to connect with an audience
  • able to emote to take others on a journey
  • able to connect with others on an interpersonal level

The skills he developed from dance have benefited him in his professional life as a hairdresser as he is able to make deep connections with his clients, figure out what each individual client is looking for as he is listening to his or her cues, and is able to get up in front of his peers on a monthly basis to share new and innovative products that are happening in his field.

As I am always curious about the experiences people have had with school, I asked him if he enjoyed his time at school and the answer was no. He told me that he felt deflated at school because he couldn’t memorize and regurgitate on tests and assignments, but yet could memorize all his dance numbers (often upwards of 20 at a time) and perform them perfectly. That story really left an imprint on me as when dancers perform, not only do they the dance, they tell us a story that allows us to create our own interpretations. Tests and assignments don’t often allow for those additional elements, but that’s where the learning happens as the audience is then making connections and learning. To me, those skills are so much more valuable than the content of a test.

In telling this story, I feel that we have come to a time in education where stories like this will happen less and less frequently as although this is just one man, the bones of his story are true for so many people. All we have to do is see the possibilities by looking at the students in front of us and seeing the world through their eyes. Students spend so much time with us so we need to be making learning relevant for each individual in that class. I really feel that we can no longer use a one size fits all mentality to “teach.” We need to be learning with our students, and providing experiences for our students to gain the soft skills that are so very valuable in today’s information society. But more than anything, we need to be treating students like they matter and that they are supported when they are successful and when they need to iterate again.

So over the next couple of months I plan to ask myself, my students, and others those questions as I think the answers will be fascinating and hopefully inspiring.

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One thought on “Where is the learning? and Is it relevant? – my two questions for the year

  1. As a current first year uni student, I really respect that you are reflecting upon the content taught in class and questioning if there is learning in what you teach throughout the semester! I usually feel more interested and engaged in a class, if I feel that the material really goes hand in hand with my hobbies and future. In high school, I really enjoyed the class when my teacher would give us autonomy over our work and when we had a say in which books we would read!

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