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Six things to be grateful for if you’re a learner or a teacher in 2015

Thank-you-pinned-note-800px.pngMy religious traditions are chaotic – my enthusiasm for American customs even more so – but every year, I keep thinking it’s a good idea to specify why learning and teaching is worth giving thanks for. So here it is, in 2015 – six good reasons to give thanks for learning. Some are as true this year as they’ve ever been; others are recent developments; all of them are subjective and I’m looking forward to hearing about your version.

1. We make a difference.

This Taylor Mali poem tells it like it is (I’m sorry, I kinda ruined the punchline for you, it’s still worth listening to, I promise) – teaching and learning are two things with lots and lots of influence in this world. This is the most important part in this list, and deserves to be put first. In tough times, it is worth remembering that what we do can change someone else out there (no matter if we’re learning or teaching).

2. We turn non-schools into schools again.

Linda Cliatt-Wayman had this to say about her experience as principal in difficult schools: people there no longer believed the place they were in was actually a school. The respect, the learning, the teaching – all became impossible. It was her job to change that, and to make sure these places became schools again. This was a responsibility she shared with other teachers and learners. And it worked.
I can think of many situations in which failed schools become places where learning happens once more. And of many places in which learning happens, even though nobody thought it could.

3. Teachers get better and help learners get better.

This one is something that’s been going on for ages, but this year teachers in the UK started paying closer attention to their US counterparts. For some of us, reading about Doug Lemov and his crusade in search of a perfect teacher can be daunting. I think it’s geeky and really useful to obsess over every minute of every lesson – and I’m happy that other teachers begin to think this way, too.

4. Free online courses get more accessible.

2015 was another year for MOOCs – and reports suggest there were more courses on offer than last year. Now, there may be teachers reading this who begin to shake and mutter under their breath whenever the word “MOOC” is uttered. And it would be unfair to claim – right after praising what teachers and learners achieve together – that MOOCs will come and change it all.
Instead, I’m grateful for MOOCs because of the new questions they bring to the teaching / learning conversation. How will the technology help learners make the most of their time? What will teachers need to do next, if they decide to make an online course part of their repertoire? These are exciting times for all learning. MOOCs add to the excitement.

5. We are able to rise to the challenges.

This is a super-optimistic way of saying “not every global political situation is a failure for learning.” Or, put another way, “people realize how vital it is for learners to learn, and for teachers to teach – no matter where and how.”
2015 was a year of many bad news, and it doesn’t look like all the depressing coverage is likely to end. But there were positive episodes, all around me, which helped me believe in learners and education again. Malala Fund opened a school for refugee girls. My local bookshop called for books they then took to a Calais camp. I’m sure you could name many more such occasions.

6. There’s more to be learned, and more to discover.

For me, 2015 was a great year for finding things out and for getting crazy-excited about new exploration and discovery. I’m a bit of a space nerd, so there was lots of news to obsess about: the Pluto flyby, the discovery of water on Mars…and I’m still trying to get over Rosetta.
This is the last thing I want to be grateful for. Despite the bad news and the daily routine, there’s still lots to learn. Although I’m not a scientist, I find it really intriguing to read, watch and discuss these things, and I’m not alone in doing so – 2015 was the year in which science really dominated the blogosphere and trended in many a hashtag.
These are the six learning- and teaching-related things I want to be grateful for this year. What are yours?

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