At school, everyone’s job is to learn

Dennis Sparks

“At school, everyone’s job is to learn” has been a Learning Forward motto for many years.

It reminds us that continuous improvement in student learning requires that teachers, principals, and system leaders learn. Such learning is both team based and individualized.

That’s what it means to be a “learning organization.”

At school it’s everyone’s job to learn everyday by:

• reflecting on the effectiveness of his or her work, using various sources of evidence, and

• by engaging with colleagues to improve it.

In learning-focused schools, teachers and administrators:

• learn from students,

• learn from colleagues, and

• learn from supervisors.

What essential sources of professional learning have I missed?

5 Responses to “At school, everyone’s job is to learn”

  1. 1 Jamie March 11, 2015 at 8:29 am

    learning from reading (books, journals, research, etc…)

    • 2 Dennis Sparks March 11, 2015 at 11:02 am

      My thanks to both Paul and Jamie for their great suggestions. As I read them I realized that I had unconsciously written about the things that everyone in the school every day could learn from everyone else.

  2. 3 Paul Tufts March 11, 2015 at 8:47 am

    Thanks for the post Dennis. I agree with the title and I suggest that those of us in the education business also need to learn from our respective communities (i.e. business, parents, residents that do not have children in the school system) and from our clientele-the students- which are so important any school’s effective functioning.
    Take care

  3. 4 Teacher's Pet March 11, 2015 at 3:04 pm


    Someone has said what I have been saying to my colleagues for years. To see others in agreement too means there are plenty of people out there who still love learning.

    Whether it is a postgraduate degree or a wallpapering course, I am always on the hunt to learn new skills and gain new knowledge. I am glad I am not some lone loon!!

    This is an extract from an article I wrote about learning to work with wood and how it opened up many avenues to develop creativity for younger learners across the whole school curriculum:

    “I am learning with the children. I can explore, give myself the room to be wrong, assess, evaluate and change. It’s a great model for the children and it is one of those rare occasions when the children can see their teachers in a more realistic light – as learners. What better role model for learners than seeing other (more experienced learners) actually engaged in the process of learning!”

    As Einstein said: “Creativity is contagious, pass it on.”

  4. 5 Justin Baeder (@eduleadership) March 11, 2015 at 5:15 pm

    Thanks for another thought-provoking post. If I could, I’d like to suggest an alternative view: that learning is an essential way to go about our work, but is not what we’re actually “hired” to do.

    Ultimately, I think we’re hired for our performance. That’s what our students need from us, not some change in our capacity. I’d much rather my kids have the chance to work with educators who are already great, rather than those who are merely going from poor to good, or good to above-average.

    Learning is how we get to be great, but it’s doing right by students, not getting better, that’s our actual job.

    I raise the issue because it’s become a joke in the business world that “at least we learned something” is simply a way to describe failure without admitting failure. If we implement an initiative, and it fails, but we comfort ourselves by saying “Well, at least we learned a few things,” that may make us feel better, but what about the students who suffered?

    Too often, we pretend that we’re learning, but without delivering anything different for students. One could argue that if students don’t benefit, the educator hasn’t really learned anything, but you could also argue that much of the learning we credit ourselves for doesn’t actually matter for students.

    I do agree that learning is essential, but perhaps we’re too glib about concluding that we’ve been learning when in fact we haven’t.

    At any rate, thanks for another great post.

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