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A New Year Begins…

Though the calendar won’t change to fall for almost a month, fall starts this week for most of my middle school friends & educator friends.

The school year is upon us.

With each year of schooling, a lot of attention is given to what we’ll be learning. The first days in classes largely consist of laying out guidelines and expectations, of passing out syllabi, and giving overviews of what’s to come.

But what if the most important things we learned this year weren’t what we learned, but who we learned it from.

In a society that’s becoming increasingly mobile, one where breadth of knowledge is increasingly accessible, the who that’s doing the teaching becomes all the more important.

As adults, we sometimes forget that we still have much to learn, but upon reflection, most of us that work with students readily admit that it was we who learned much from them, offering what we had, but receiving more in return.

By not being encumbered by “required” learning, we (adults) can become open to the young people around us who have imaginative, innocent eyes on the world and often tend to shoot from the hip, speaking first and thinking later. This fresh perspective simultaneously reminds and opens: reminds us of freshness we ourselves have possessed at times and opens up new perspectives to appreciate.

When we (all of us) learn from a person, we get the chance to enter into their life a bit. We can move from information to contextualization, from knowledge to practice.

This year, all that we learn will come through some person. Even if it’s via technology, someone is on the other end, inputting the material. The question that then comes to each of us is not only what we’ll do with the information, but what we’ll gain from the person. Will we take full advantage the richness of their life experience? Will we seek out learning opportunities that put us in contact with whole persons and not just snippets of information?

How would a classroom look different, if every person who walked through the door thought first about who else was present with them, rather than what objectives they intended to accomplish today? How would our offices, our homes, our coffee shops shift with this other’s oriented approach?

Here’s to a new year of learning: may it be full of the richness of humanity, full of new learning found by way of presence and perspective.

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