Leadership LEAP: Learning Something New

Are all my fellow superhero educators ready for the latest Leadership LEAP This week’s LEAP revolves around the idea of learning and specifically thinking about the last time we tried something new for the first time and learned something as a result. The following quote inspired this week’s Leadership LEAP… 

Throughout my career I have talked a lot about how I am a learner first and have even referred to myself as a lead learner but, what is learning? While there are many variations of the definition, here a couple of examples that capture the essence of learning as it is defined in many spaces and as I am using it today:

“Learning has been defined functionally as changes in behavior that result from experience or mechanistically as changes in the organism that result from experience.” De Houwer, Barnes-Holmes, Moors, 2013


“Learning is about any experience for a person that leads to permanent capacity change and not necessarily biological in nature or related to age.” Illeris, 1999


The common threads are immediately visible – learning is about a change in behaviors; learning is about experiences and subsequent changes. Learning is a process or journey that a person embarks on that then impacts their thinking, actions or opinions moving forward. Learning is about a permanent change in a person. Learning is about being informed and doing things differently because of what was learned. Learning is about social interactions. Learning is about living and changing over time. 


Leadership Leap # 2: 
Learning & Trying Something For The First Time

Here is an #edutruth… Learning is not passive or easy. In fact, learning is a lot of work – a lot of hard work that has pushed me to the point of discomfort. Alison Eyring, CEO of Organisational Solutions, developed a powerful analogy between learning and an oyster when she said, “The challenge of learning by experience is like sand in the oyster; it’s irritating and uncomfortable at the time, but you can end up with a beautiful pearl.” What an amazing analogy that I have found to often be true – learning isn’t mindless or uncomplicated or momentary; instead, learning is a time consuming journey that can be irritating or uncomfortable, both literally and figuratively, because the end result will be change. Learning starts with trying something for the first time, sticking with it and changing as a result! Learning pushes us to grow; learning forces us to change; and learning challenges us to see the world through a different lens.

To that end, here are some things we can try this week for the first time as an initial step in the learning journey… 


School/District Level for Eduleaders:

  1. Learn something new alongside your students. In my last year as a building principal, I joined the fourth grade orchestra and fulfilled my dream of learning how to play the violin. While I won’t be touring with an orchestra any time soon, performing in the fourth grade concert at the end of that school year (with my parents in the audience) was an incredible experience I shared with my students and fellow learners!
  2. Actively engage in professional learning opportunities with your teachers. Too many times in my career I have seen leaders in their offices during PD days and I am not sure what message that sends but if we think the PD is a priority for teachers, then it should be a priority for leaders!
  3. Be transparent with your learning journey when you are trying something for the first time because that can inspire someone around you. Whether it is a new tech tool you’re trying or attempting a new instructional strategy or taking a graduate course, share the experience with your colleagues and students because modeling being a learner is critical to the sustainability of our work! 
  4. Try something new and tell the people around you about the experience! When I started walking/running last year, I shared my experience on social media as a way to document my journey for me. What ended up happening was getting loads of encouragement from family and friends, which has served as an inspiration for me to keep walking/running. So share your experience when you try something for the first time because that might be the difference between a one day event and a permanent change!
Classroom Level for Teachers:

  1. Share your book love with students by “book talking” the new books you’ve recently finished. Readers are thinkers and thinkers are learners so share your reading journey with students! There is something so interesting and exciting about listening to someone you respect/look up to/learn from share their recent experience related to a new book… that always makes me want to run out to buy that book and read it ASAP!
  2. Learn something new alongside your students. In my last year as a building principal, I joined the fourth grade orchestra and fulfilled my dream of learning how to play the violin. While I won’t be touring with an orchestra any time soon, performing in the fourth grade concert at the end of that school year (with my parents in the audience) was an incredible experience I shared with my students and fellow learners!
  3. Be transparent with your learning journey when you are trying something for the first time because that can inspire someone around you. Whether it is a new tech tool you’re trying or attempting a new instructional strategy or taking a graduate course, share the experience with your colleagues and students because modeling being a learner is critical to the sustainability of our work! 
  4. Try something new and tell the people around you about the experience! When I started walking/running last year, I shared my experience on social media as a way to document my journey for me. What ended up happening was getting loads of encouragement from family and friends, which has served as an inspiration for me to keep walking/running. So share your experience when you try something for the first time because that might be the difference between a one day event and a permanent change!
These are just some of my ideas for this week’s Leadership LEAP; please feel free to add ideas by leaving a comment below.
And to all my colleagues, thank you for making a difference in the lives of children… your super powers don’t go unnoticed!