Being Loyal to Learning at All Levels of Education


While I was working on the book ‘Bold Moves for Schools’ that I co-authored with Dr. Heidi Hayes Jacobs, we spent a lot of time on the idea of what it means to be a contemporary learner, contemporary teacher, contemporary leader, and contemporary school.


To move towards a contemporary structure requires us to make bold moves such as being loyal to learning. 


What does it mean to be loyal to learning? Being loyal to learning means being committed to the authentic learning process. The authentic learning process uses the cycle of expertise as James Paul Gee would often talk about or acknowledges and embraces failure as a critical part of the learning process.




By being loyal to learning we are also being loyal to failure. This requires not having an evaluation blocking us from acknowledging the learning process when it is successful.


If I am going to define success, I am not going to only look at my outcomes such as test scores, I am going to be looking at the learning process to see:

  • How many failures did I have?
  • What have I learned from them?
  • Where am I going next?
  • What kinds of questions am I asking?

Loyal to Learning as a Teacher

A teacher who is loyal to learning is not only a professional educator but also a professional learner. As a professional learner, I am modeling the authentic learning process right there for my students to see which means I must master failure. I must show students how to fail correctly and when I am doing this and participating in the learning process that I model I need to commit to publishing the experience openly. 


If I am loyal to learning I am publishing what I am learning. As professional educators, we are not in the habit of publishing what we learn. Publishing means being transparent and public about our learning. That is something the contemporary teacher who is loyal to learning is going to be thinking about.


When Administrators are Loyal Learning

If I am going to create a culture where it is safe for students, who are young learners, to fail and learn, and an environment for my teachers where it is safe for them to fail and learn; then I must be an advocate for learning. I must be an innovative designer, and I must create structures, schedules, spaces, and grouping where I am mindful of learning first. 


So, when we are making decisions as administrators about what is good for the learners, that is the north star. Whether we are working on budgets or evaluating what might be easy or most comfortable for adults, or what is acceptable to the public society, the primary decision-making should be focused on being loyal to the learning process.  



Policy Makers & Board Members Being Loyal to Learning 

Let us look at what it means at the system level with policymakers, board members, people in control of budgeting, and policies about testing and accountability. Loyal to learning for them would mean being the defenders of innovation, the advocates for the learning process to the degree that they suppress the culture of threat. It means that they make decisions that defend the right of teachers and learners to fail, be innovative, and design new ideas. If we are making decisions from that angle, then we are exercising our right to be loyal to learning.



The divide between administrators and teachers is the vestigial tail of the industrial era, it no longer serves a meaningful purpose. If we as a profession are connected, communicating, and can advocate and articulate our purpose as loyal to learning we can make decisions about accountability and if we can pursue innovation by being loyal to learning we can unite as a profession. 


Then when we start talking to parents about the society from being loyal to learning we will dismiss the culture of threat and we can commit to doing what is right for learners and not having situations where good teachers are making bad decisions because they are afraid of doing something that would be right for learning out of a need to comply with the system. 


Being loyal to learning at all levels of education is a path to success for everyone.