According to Frank Smith (1998), author of The Book of Learning and Forgetting,
“Schools should be places where students–and everyone else for that matter–can find opportunities to learn everything that is worthwhile in the world outside (the emphasis on the doing, not the teaching). That is the whole point of schools, not to deprive students of experience but to provide enriched opportunities.” (p. 98)
Early in my teaching career, I recognized not all students walk away from my classes having had a similar, positive experience. Not everyone arrives to class on time; many struggle with course content or refuse to complete assignments; others fall out of education due to factors beyond my control. However, with increased self-worth, shared control of outcomes, and freedom to solve problems, a majority of students find purpose in the value of learning. A passionate teacher’s integrity builds trust, earns respect, and radiates energy throughout the learning environment.
With this knowledge, I welcome students to our educational “clubhouse”–a playful environment created solely for the purpose of learning, or, in Parker Palmer’s (1998) words, where “students have direct access to the energy of learning and of life” (p. 120).
Here is my opening day message to students:
You enter this room with my unconditional respect and will be treated with dignity. I will give each of you the opportunity to do your best based on your individual abilities, interests, and learning styles. You will have the freedom to make choices, set individual goals, and frequently reflect on your learning. As a result, you will increase your critical thinking skills and insightfully monitor your progress. Simply put, I will challenge you to think about learning while learning how to think. I look forward to learning with you. Welcome to the Club!
In order to learn with a purpose, we must believe in and practice the 7 Clubhouse Values:
1) Every member of our club is valuable and has an individual role to fulfill.
2) We are enriched by the diversity of our individual learning styles and life experiences.
3) We are accountable for our education and strive to improve.
4) We take pride in our daily contributions.
5) Learning is continuous; it has nothing to do with accumulating points.
6) We learn as much (or more) from failure as from success.
7) I will treat you with the amount of dignity and respect you deserve, so you will know how to treat me and others.
Within the acceptable limits of our school/community, you are free to do what you please as long as it does not cause a problem for anyone else, including me. If you cause a problem, I will ask you to solve it. If you cannot solve it, or choose not to, I will do something. Remember, our actions have consequences.