The Table of Learning

My metaphor for the relationships in a school is a table.  I’d love to think it is a table fit for a king, with learning at the center, dignifying and elegant.  However, I think much more often, the relationships look like the kitchen tables in most homes in North America, full of “real life,” evidence of hard work, and steeped in the commitment of connections.

Here are five ways that school relationships are like a table:

1.  The great thing, the learning is at the center of the table.  When I read it almost a decade ago, I resonated deeply with Parker Palmer‘s notion of the “third thing, a great thing, at the center of the pedagogical circle.”  Since then, I often think of our learning community as a table, with the learning at the center.  Now, a decade later, we are exploring Dave Burgess’ book, Teach Like a Pirate and while the two couldn’t be more different in tone, the reverence for the “learning” is present in both.

2.  Parents are essential at the table with teachers and students.  Of course, we all know that students with involved parents thrive.  As I reflected on this blog post, I could easily see in our daily practice at Willowstone Academy this trend, if parents approach the table, they also have to value learning and process.

3.  Sometimes it looks like a “real” table.  It can get messy.  It isn’t perfect.  Things spill, sometimes there’s too much salt, someone doesn’t show up, or it is awkward.  I actually love this metaphor during those authentic human experiences, when it just doesn’t look perfect.  I also like to ask “what is the most essential learning that should be central at this table right now?”  Dare-I-say, it might not be the curriculum goals.

4.  Every meal is different.  I don’t know about your house, but despite definite value and commitment by my husband and me to sit down twice per day as a family, it looks different from day-to-day.  Even as I write this, I chose to be late to an appointment today, because my 17-year-old who had been quite sick made it up to breakfast (albeit late).  I stayed a few more moments to collect and connect with him.  It’s just like that in the school, sometimes we can’t include the parents at the table for one reason or another, or the learning goals shift, or we need to add a specialist or a new assessment to inform us.  At the table there are different visitors, family members, and menu changes each day.  We are accustomed to that.

5.  It’s worthy of celebration!  While every meal at home or at the table of learning doesn’t look perfect, the value and the process are worthy of celebration!  We don’t get it perfect every time, but we continue to gather and build relationships, holding what we are each learning with reverence.