I have been reading Tom Peters (Blog, Twitter) work for almost 25 years now. I find it insightful, inspiring, and occasionally infuriating. I always wanted to have a chance to meet Tom and have a conversation over coffee. He does not address the topic much, but his thoughts about education, and what it means to learn, are filled with great potential for rethinking school. I have found that many of his best ideas are not business specific, though he presents them in that context. These ideas are foundational to the process of learning by doing – a critical idea long ago removed from our schools. On numerous occasions I have used a video clip of or quoted Tom in my posts here.
I have also have been following Tom on Twitter since he jumped into that pool about a year ago. I enjoy what he shares in 140 or fewer. This morning one really struck me and I decided to respond. I have responded to other “top shelf gurus” not expecting a response, and they have never let me down. Tom responded. Now, it was not an hour over coffee, but I appreciate his attention to “customer service” (the man practices what he preaches!) and count myself lucky to have had the brief interaction.
Reflecting on the momentary experience I find myself asking, “What power can be brought into classrooms around the world by ensuring interactions between our students and experts in the fields of architecture, art, medicine, sciences, business, engineering, technology, and especially authors, artists, thinkers and inventors?”
There is tremendous power in establishing, within our classrooms, the reality that we as teachers don’t have all the answers. At the start of every year in the classroom I began with a statement of my manifesto (of sorts) for the learning that would occur over the next nine months. My first line was an unapologetic announcement that they better be prepared for the fact that, “Your teacher doesn’t have all the answers.” Following on the heels of that announcement was a promise to always work with students to discover the answer to any question when none of us in the room knew the answer. I remember that every year at least one student would comment on how shocking it was for a teacher to admit the truth. They would also remark that teachers they had had previously allowed the “sage” aura to be perpetuated and they admitted they would often remark (usually under their breath or in their heads), “But you’re suppose to know, you’re the teacher” (my own kids have a version of that statement using “dad” in place of “the teacher”).