Community Story from Bryan Gibson, Researcher and Paradigm Designer within the Learnlife team. Community Stories is a series of personal thoughts and memories from the Learnlife community, including learners, team members and parents. These stories offer an opportunity for us to reflect on important moments in our own journeys and provide insight into the community we are building.
I am comfortable in saying that, like no doubt many others, my school days were a mixed bag of success and failure. After many years musing on why this might be, I may have found the answer; the vision for learning was not my own. It was forced onto me by a school system that had the same vision for everyone, driven by standardised assessment and competition.
Learning in my early years was out of my control, which meant I never really fully considered my own personal future nor looked ahead far enough or with enough tenacity to take charge of my own life. In many ways I was a drifter, and like the learning content that was forced onto me, it is possible I subconsciously imagined that my life would unfold, just like my learning experiences; by others. And so I continued to drift.
If people are not empowered to envision their own lives, then they run the risk of allowing others to do it for them. The traditional school system is a great example of how this has happened; it suited an industrial age where conformity and factory-line-thinking was needed to prepare people for the era in which they lived.
In an increasingly complex world where change is occurring at an unprecedented rate - having a clear vision is more crucial now than ever before. A vision enables individuals to imagine and reimagine how they might fit into our world as it unfolds and changes. Reaching a vision is supported by core values. Values are the enduring characteristics that people have which help them navigate their lives, lived out through behaviours and actions. So values have a profound impact on learning. Values might be considered the engine in a learning process; the behaviours and actions used to steer a vision appropriately. The clearer the vision, the more efficient that engine becomes.
The success of one’s vision is supported by having a why, or purpose, and every learning journey should begin with each student being able to articulate their why. If they can do this then they are on the track for success because they understand the reason for their journey and this creates the initial motivation and drive to push towards an end goal.
Traditional learning models continue to derail people’s why before any learning even takes place, by taking it out of a student’s hands and using mandated curricula to guide cohorts of individuals through the same funnel of experiences. If that why is already curated for them, then why even dare to dream? It is little wonder that the mental health and wellbeing of young people continues to rise when they live in a world where, for the most part, they have not been taught how to establish a personal vision to navigate their own lives. They enter the real world, often lost and with an uncertain sense of self.
One of the most refreshing and reassuring gifts you can offer a student, is to tell them that success is not down to natural talent or luck, but having a vision for success that can become their guiding compass. This might be described as a preferred future, and is a unique, personal blueprint that must be revisited and re-evaluated continuously to answer the simple question; am I on track? Ultimately, moving away from the idea that luck determines success is crucial. Success comes about by effective decision-making and action. Luck does however happen when individuals set themselves up in a way that brings about opportunities, and this is more likely to happen with a clear vision. So, it is crucial that students understand that luck is something they can create for themselves.
Once students realise they are in charge of their own success, it can be very reassuring if they have key core values to support them. Values like commitment, determination or consistency, when supported by a fail forward mindset, can be very useful. The beauty is that values can all be grown with continued practice. Strong personal values can keep a vision on track during those ‘choppy’ days or when learning gets difficult, and we all know what that feels like. And because nothing in life or learning is necessarily always easy, having a unique purpose or why can help a lot.
In today’s world we are exposed to a plethora of talent, which is highly inspiring for some, and a deflating reality check for others. What one must realise is that, what you are often viewing as ‘raw talent’, ‘genius’ or ‘gifted’, is the end product of a vision. We do not see the countless hours that go into that end product; the failures, the continued self-evaluation, the ‘am I on track?’ conversations that, you can rest assured, are happening. Talented, and gifted individuals are real, but without the vision and values to drive them, the end product is like most of us mortals; a mixed bag of success or failure. A recent Netflix documentary on Michael Jordan, one of the most gifted athletes and basketball players on the planet, is one such example of how a mixture of talent, vision and values aligned to produce an awe-inspired end product. The key is to find and follow a vision that is true to you.
A learning community is critical to the success of each of its students, and one of its greatest offerings is to constantly communicate that hard work and failure must happen to reach success, particularly when you need to step out of your comfort zone. A learning community should be like a great friend; it would never judge you on your dreams or decisions, no matter how outlandish they might seem. In a learning community, everyone’s unique personal vision should be respected, and the whole community should be there to guide, mentor, influence and lend a hand in whatever capacity needed. Imagine a world where every learning community was like this? They can exist if the goals for learning shift.
Vision, like purpose, can change, so it is important for young people to experiment with various visions and journeys during their formative years to sharpen future focus while experiencing a broad range of activities. With the correct values and a growth mindset, anything is possible really. And when you enable people to live out their own vision, I firmly believe you can create the type of world that can unite to solve the challenges that ailing societies have created. The first step is to let each student dare to dream.