Learning vs. Education

Something important happened last week and I want to take the time right now to write about it. Right now, I am in my professional year with the classmates who have become sisters the past three years. It’s the time where we have already hit the ground running and we’re still running at full speed because we hadn’t thought to slow down yet; until we were given a task. We were asked to predict what our students would learn in a single day in our future classrooms. Not only that, we were tasked with estimating what percentage of our students would learn in a day. We stopped sprinting.



This is how I imagine we look running in our “teacher clothes”


Up until this year, I have felt more like an English major than an education major, despite what my diploma will say in May. Maybe it’s because I took almost all of my education courses online and absolutely all my English courses face-to-face. It could be that the homework ratio between the topics feels like a 1:6 most of the time. There’s a chance I hung to the “English” label a bit tighter because in a college full of future educators, English makes me feel just a little more special, a bit more noticeable, a tiny way to stand out. Either way, my college education has been comprised of literature, creativity, tears (from both stress and laughter) and learning how to express who I think I am on paper. The most challenging part was the latter. “What kind of grade am I going to get if I just write about how much I love books and cheerleading?”, my freshman mind thought. You read that right. I was afraid to be me because getting an ‘A’ was more important than being myself.

But I learned how to overcome that. No, my personality is not ‘A’ worthy all the time and my professors didn’t hand out 100s just cause I handed in an assignment. In fact, I did not earn a grade at all. My papers, my thoughts, would come back to me with comment-filled margins, question marks asking for clarification and smiley faces where I made a sassy comment or a thoughtful observation. There were no letter grades or numbered scores to be found, just a “pass” in the gradebook. Suddenly, I mattered more as a person than a score. This is how I learned how to write. I learned I could write just to put my thoughts in a physical state even if they didn’t make sense, my thoughts still existed. I learned I could write to find my voice and, not only that, my voice could truly be me, not some academic suck-up no could understand. I learned to write for content and thought, not to please a red pen. Eliminating the expectation lead me to fly past any expectations I had for myself.

Now let’s bring the storyline back to last week. My English nerds and I have learned to strive on critique and how to teach our future students the same way. How are we supposed to answer, “What will your students learn?”? My answer is simple: I don’t know. I don’t know when they will find themselves, or their new favorite book, or what it feels like to see your fuzzy thoughts in a blank document but be content with it because now you exist. I don’t know when comma usage or the value of lyricism will hit home with them. All I know is I will be in that classroom every day with an open mind and a guiding heart. What percentage of my kids will learn the objective today? 100%. Every day’s objective will be to learn through reading and writing.


I didn’t come to these conclusions on my own. After a wall was put up in our running path, my classmates and I rushed to our English corner and discussed how to climb the wall with a trusted professor. With her help, we boosted each other over with creativity and passion, but still playing by the rules. We are still running, as fast as our bags full of books will let us.


Images courtesy of Creative Commons.


One thought on “Learning vs. Education

  1. Elisabeth Ellington says:

    That “I don’t know” is so beautiful, Mary Anne. If I am doing my job right as a teacher, my students will learn far more and in far different ways than I imagined. I think we have to be in the business of understanding and creating the conditions for learning rather than trying to control what, specifically, each person in our room is going to learn. And I think your blog post title really captures the conflict you and your classmates are experiencing right now–the difference between Education with a capital E, Education as a field and discipline, and learning.


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