Learning to Learn and the Shifting Dynamics of Work

At Waynflete, the phrase “Learn to Learn” is printed on our bumper stickers, used in public radio ads, and prominently displayed on our website. To fully appreciate why it is so much more than a slogan, you have to look at the shifting dynamic of work and the skills our graduates will need now and into the future.

A recent report by the global consultancy McKinsey identified that one third of all American workers will be displaced by automation within the next thirteen years. Thirteen years is less time than a Waynflete “lifer” takes to graduate and in that time the world of work will be upended. As a school, our charge is to prepare children for a world that will be constantly evolving. Work and careers are no longer a single path to be pursued but rather an ever-changing dynamic that requires a real willingness to retool. It takes courage, optimism, and some real skills to believe that one can reinvent oneself. At Waynflete, we believe all those qualities come when you learn to learn.

We don’t just teach skills and content: we teach children how to learn. This is an important distinction. We design our educational experience to truly engage students in the learning process and to instill in them the understanding that they are in control. The motivation to learn must come from within and we are deliberate about making learning interesting, relevant, and appropriately challenging for each student.

We don’t view effective learning to be merely the dissemination of content and skills from teacher to student. Skills are essential and content is the medium we use to develop those skills. Learning to learn, however, is about combining essential skills with an openness and eagerness to learn new things. A child who finds enjoyment and success in learning will develop into an adult who feels the same way. We believe that school must be both rigorous and engaging. Engagement leads to motivation. Motivation leads to a willingness to work hard to learn new things and to challenge oneself.

What makes school engaging? At Waynflete, we believe that learning is deeply personal and what motivates and excites one child is different than that which motivates another. A child who feels known and supported in school is in the best position to find success. Our culture encourages close collaboration between children and their teachers. A teacher who knows a child well can craft an educational experience that is both challenging and supportive.

It may seem obvious that the motivation to learn comes from within but in most educational settings that reality is not fully embraced. Content and skills are often delivered to students regardless of whether they are engaged. At Waynflete, learning is a collaborative process where students and teachers work together towards a common understanding. In most of our classrooms, students and a teacher sit in circles engaged in discussions of the material or are actively engaged in a project or lab. Students are encouraged to take the lead and share their perspective and understanding. This deeply personal approach makes certain that all our students are engaged and feel a sense of ownership over their learning.

Learn to learn is a slogan and it is a plan for life that ensures students will have the ability to learn, retool, and change direction. It is reassuring to know that whatever life brings, the possibility for reinvention is a learning opportunity away.