Perception Problems

Blog Hop 3 in the Innovator’s Mindset series begins with some questions. Not just any questions. “What if…” questions. They are tricky. On the one hand, they allow us to suspend our current context and dream of what could be. On the other, they are sometimes followed with statements that perpetuate the barriers (real and perceived) that deter us from change.

In this case, the “What if…” questions ask us to think about what’s possible!

In the first stages of brainstorming, we come up with ideas that are bound by the constraints we have come to accept, even count on to give us a reason not to try something new. But in later stages of ideation, when we suspend our context, limitations and dogma, we come up with innovative, divergent and connected solutions. This is the mindset needed to think about what’s possible.

The “What if…” question we as a district have been thinking and talking about lately asks about everyone’s role as a learner.

What if school districts operated as if we should all be learners,
as opposed to students being the only learners?

Of course we are all learners. However, it’s one thing to say “I am a learner.” and it’s another thing altogether to live it. With titles, authority and responsibility, come an internal pressure to have the answers. To know. Trouble is, that doesn’t leave any room for modeling an open to learning stance. Our job is to learn, learn to help others learn. We can’t do that if we don’t see ourselves as learners, if we don’t see getting better for students as our primary role. Who doesn’t want to be better for kids? Who doesn’t want to be a better parent, teacher, principal, superintendent, director?

While revising the goals in our Board Learning Plan last year, we thought about who these goals were for.Who would be reading them? Would they see themselves in them? That prompted prefacing each statement with “If we as a community of learners…” which became “Our community of learners will have daily opportunities to…” In this way, students, staff and parents can find themselves in the goals and see themselves as learners. It also let’s people know we want to pursue these goals from the classroom to the boardroom. All of us.

We all know what we want for our students. We want them to be happy and connected, critical thinkers and unyielding learners. But seeing students as the only learners in a system is a serious perception problem. And, like so many things, sometimes it’s how you perceive a problem that is part of the problem.

part of the problem1

Have a look at the “What ifs” of these learners:

Paul McGuire
Lisa Noble
Stacey Wallwin
Darren Lukenbill
Peter Cameron
Amir Mehrotra
Mark Carbone
Tina Zita
Katie Martin
Donna Fry
Jennifer Casa Todd
Leigh Cassell


6 thoughts on “Perception Problems

  1. Great post Patrick…I noticed a huge shift in the culture of PSD70, when this became part of our mission and vision:

    “Parkland School Division is a place where exploration, creativity, and imagination make learning exciting and where all learners aspire to reach their dreams.”

    If you are a “learner”, we will do what we can to help you reach your dreams. It is amazing to see how this simple change in language can create a total different thinking.

  2. Such an important statement: ‘However, it’s one thing to say “I am a learner.” and it’s another thing altogether to live it.’ It is one of the things I appreciated the most about our #peelSPARK event last week. Each presenter really focused on that need to be an active learner alongside their learners or even just individually like Debbie did. Thank you for the reminder!

  3. Wow, this is a really powerful post.

    I am always pretty amazed to see the work coming out of your board over the last few years. I was telling the story earlier tonight of being a passenger in a taxi in Ottawa, and doing a Google Hangout with you, Marci Duncan and Jennifer Casa-Todd – perhaps others as well – where you demonstrated for us the meaning of a “living SIPSA”.

    It is a clear demonstration of your learning stance for all, not just talking about it but living it.

    This is important because we are good at talk. We use words like innovative and transformative all the time, but do we see very much real change as a result?

    Last year, I was asked to present at a conference in Wikwemikong. I was so excited to be invited back to a place that was an important part of my childhood. I couldn’t wait to share my learning with them. At the opening, an elder said to us, “You think you have come here to teach us, but you have come here because we need to teach you.” That hit me hard. I was taking a teaching stance, not a learning stance, and I am much more aware of that now.

    When we all enter as learners, we can flatten the organization, and respect all voices. We are all learners – parents, teachers, students, community, formal leaders. It is only by unlearning some of those preconceived notions – those perceptions of the problems – that we will begin to be able to solve them.

    Thank you for participating in the Blog Hop, and for all of your work in organizing this learning event for Ontario and beyond.

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