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Monthly Archives: February 2014

The Seeds of Learning

If you think about the question, “Do farmers grow seeds?” the answer seems obvious. But if you think about it literally, you realize that farmers don’t actually grow seeds. The seed and only the seed knows how to grow itself. All the farmer can do is optimize the environment in which the seed develops.

I often use the farmer-and-seed analogy when working with faculty members to underscore their role [the farmer] in helping students [the seeds] grow. I stress the importance of environment, classroom management, house-parenting, relationship building, and coaching for optimal learning. These elements of school culture profoundly affect the outcome of a student’s education. But the most critical learning condition is set by the teacher-student relationship. Farmers can’t control the weather, a huge variable in their crop outcomes, but school leaders have significant control of their learning environment, shaping the teacher-student relationships to create ideal conditions for learning and growth.

The same rules hold for the professional growth of faculty and administrators. I try to make my school a place where feedback is welcomed and understood as something that nourishes and enriches learning and growth. If your school is one in which the first reaction to the word “feedback” is fear, that’s a good indicator that your environment isn’t optimized—possibly because of a lack of trust among adults, possibly because it’s hard to get people comfortable with frequent feedback. So, if you want better learning outcomes, reverse design your school for optimal learning. Your students and staff will be glad that you did.

P.S., If you haven’t already, please take a few minutes to complete the readers’ survey for Darrow’s recently redesigned Peg Board alumni magazine. Your feedback is most appreciated. —S.H.