“Prize the learner”

Lisa Thuman wrote a post that still has me thinking about how to best convince other teachers to start using more progressive methods in the classroom, and the perception edtechvangelists have of the people they are trying to convert. It sometimes seems that edtechvangelists expect to just tell or show someone something and expect them to become a convert. If they don’t, then they are “bad” teachers or don’t posses the same common sense as the converted-they shouldn’t be teachers if they won’t change.  I have often found myself saying negative things and giving up on people who resist using technology, project based learning, and other progressive methods. I do and say things that I would never say about a student who is resisting making a change in my classroom. Struggling with the words here…somehow all of “those” teachers that are unwilling to change when we say change become dehumanized and sometimes become not worthy of our efforts. It becomes us vs. them.  I stumbled upon a quote today that made me re-think my perception of the folks who don’t “change” when I say “change.”

A major hang-up affecting educational change is the image we hold of ourselves. Too often we regard ourselves as incapable of effecting change and this apprehension keeps us locked in stereotyped shells incapable of displaying our real humanity. As we understand better the nature of change, we shall likely be unafraid to be genuine, authentic, and real human beings. When this transformation takes place, as it must, we shall then be ready to face the realities involved in change with complete honesty. As real people, we shall learn to prize the learner—his feelings, his opinions, his person. We shall then be able to admit and act upon our admission that it is caring for the learner that counts. Then it is that we shall be able to practice acceptance as the most fundamental law underlying the learning process. Until we are committed to the belief that the other person is a somebody, not a nobody, and that somehow he is trustworthy—until this belief is actualized, we likely will have little interest in effecting worthwhile changes.

Dr. A Craig Phillips, North Carolina State Superintendent of Public Instruction 1969-1989

I became intrigued with his use of the phrase “Prize the leaner.” It is a great position to put your students, or collegues in.  I think Dr. Phillips must have read Carl Rogers who also belives that one must “prize the learner” before change will occur:

The attitudes that Rogers believed facilitated learning as set out in Mark K. Smith’s 2005 article on the Infed website are as follows:

Realness in the facilitator ~ The most basic attitude is realness or genuineness. An educator is a real person who enters into a relationship with the student. Educators are more effective if they do not present a front or facade to the student. There is direct personal encounter on a one to one basis where the educator is being himself or herself, and there is not denial of the true self.
Prizing, acceptance, trust ~ The effective facilitator or educator must prize the learner, and prize the learner’s feelings and opinions. This is a basic trust that shows acknowledgement of the other person having worth in his or her own right and that the other person is fundamentally trustworthy. In addition, this reflects the facilitor’s general trust in the capacity of individuals.
Empathetic listening ~ When an educator has the ability to understand the way the process of education and learning seems to the student, the likelihood of significant learning is increased. This creates a climate conducive to self-initiated experiential learning.

I think I for one need to adjust my attitude.  I have forgotten what it was like for me when I first started my journey into being a more progressive educator.  The change did not happen overnight.  I have forgotton that, and the next time I am in a position in which I am trying to get someone to “change,” I must have a bit more patience, and will remember to “prize the learner.”


  1. Great advice as I start August training. I get frustrated thinking it’s me – I’m not engaging the staff or connecting with their needs. We all change at our own rate and it’s all valuable. Thx 4 the reminder.

  2. Hmm…so many of your posts give great food for thought, this one is a feast! Being transparent and genuine with the learner whether the learner is 5 or 65 translates to more investment in meeting the learn right where they are currently. So much to think about, thanks again, Paul!

  3. I tend to think that teachers can learn to change or embrace opportunity, it’s just not part of teacher profession development. Therefore, it’s left to those that are naturally go-getters, type As, risk takers, or fit some other category that’s willing to make a change and embrace something new. Obviously because of my blog i’ve been calling it ‘entrepreneurial teaching’ – but it encompasses the same idea. The more we can train teachers about accepting these new opportunities, the less you’ll be banging your head against the wall.

Leave a Reply to Lucas Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>