The Centre Must Hold: Why we must believe that learning has happened

If you were to ask me on a Monday, I'd say 'Yes'... If you were to ask me on a Tuesday, I'd say 'No'... and so on.
If you were to ask me on a Monday, I’d say ‘Yes’… If you were to ask me on a Tuesday, I’d say ‘No’… and so on.

‘Poor proxies for learning’. Begging the question, ‘what might be a good proxy for learning?’ Again begging the statement, ‘any proxy for learning is not learning.’ Therefore begging a final question, ‘what is learning?’

Oh God! Have I come this far, to endlessly return to this question? I thought the full extent of my Sisyphian task was to forever plough through my ceaseless pile of marking. Not also to be eternally reflecting, asking myself: ‘Is learning happening?’; ‘How do I know?’, and ‘Who’s stolen my cup?’

It’s not okay to say ‘the kids answered the questions correctly’; they may never do so again once the teaching/testing cycle is done. It’s just not done anymore to say ‘the kids were engaged’; that’s no longer an indicator of anything more than ‘fun was had by all’.

Researchers wring their hands and tell me ‘we don’t know how learning happens, and we’re not even sure how or when we can be sure that learning has indeed happened or will remain secured.’

We are berated for quantifying, levelling, testing; destroying ‘big ideas’ in service of short-term targets.

Oh, my heart!  As you might have gathered, I’m very tired.

I had a very full day today, in unseasonably hot weather. I taught some stuff; some children did some things and I looked at those things, and said nice things about those things, and told some of them how those things might become even better things tomorrow. The kids seemed proud of what they had written. Many of them are looking forward to seeing their writing on our website.

I think something happened. I think the kids enjoyed writing and I think they are looking forward to sharing their writing. I think this is good. Actually, I’m pretty sure.

Did learning take place? I don’t think learning is a Lego piece. I can’t hold it.

Did learning take place? I don’t think learning is a piece of string. It doesn’t always have a clearly defined beginning and an end.

Did learning take place? (Will this question please just go away!)

I think learning is a condition, and a tautological one at that. If you are acquisitive of knowledge and skills, you are a learner. You may learn and unlearn that knowledge and those skills, but you remain in a state of learning.

Did my kids learn themselves owt today? Yes, but they haven’t finished. And not all of them fully started. Some of the plates we started to spin at the beginning of the year are still spinning today. Some of the balls that we threw into the air weeks ago are still hanging there above us. I’d like to be surer.

Certainty would be nice.

But faith is far more romantic. It’s what holds language together, society together, and assures us that we are doing what feels right.

As tired as I am, my conscience is my co-pilot. What happened today promoted the possibility of learning tomorrow. The centre held for one more day.


2 thoughts on “The Centre Must Hold: Why we must believe that learning has happened

    1. I don’t think it’s as bad as all that. We are at a transition between certainties. Current research is less sure than ever (rightly so). But as teachers, we still have duty and instinct. Perhaps I’m simply going through a stage that all teachers go through: having now seen a few swings of the pendulum.


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