All Kids Can Learn: Three Key Tenets for Educators

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Our parents are our first teachers, and my mom is no exception. She’s an educator, too, and we were both reflecting recently about how we came to be teachers and how we came to be so passionate about the profession.

As a parent and a teacher, my mom really guided me in developing the key tenets that have guided me not only as a teacher, but as a father, and in my role at KnowledgeWorks. These are the things we really believe, even when we’re most challenged as educators. Perhaps especially when we’re most challenged.

We believe that:

  • All kids can learn.
  • All kids can learn and achieve at high levels.
  • All kids and people can learn in different ways and different time frames.

But how did we come to this? How did these three tenets come to be our guiding principles?

In elementary school, when I was struggling, I remember my mom advocating for me to be in honor’s classes, to participate in the gifted and talented program. I remember telling her at 6- or 7-years-old, “I just can’t do this.”

But she insisted that I could.

“You can do this,” she said. “I know you can do it. Because it’s not just you – everyone one can do this.”

My mother knew she had to find a way to support me, to do whatever it took to get me there.

And now in my role at KnowledgeWorks, I think about how I can continue to take those lessons learned from my mom, her unwavering commitment to supporting me and my achievement, and make it possible for educators to do the same for every student in their classroom. I want to support those educators that also believe that all kids can learn. Not just when we’re first fresh out of school going into education believing it, but 10, 15, 20, 30, 40 years later in the profession, still adamantly committed to that guiding principle that all kids can learn. That it’s our responsibility to support them in their growth, their understanding, to find the excitement and the passion that drives them, that empowers them to go deeper and further with what they’re learning.

Not only that all kids can learn, but all students can achieve at high levels. Over the last year, I’ve met thousands of educators that want to know how they can make that possible. They don’t want to refine the system, but want to reconstruct the system to support what we believe to be true: all kids can learn and achieve at high levels. I’ve had the opportunity to speak with educators, learning communities, organizations, and state policy leaders that want to make that vision possible; those ensuring, much like my mom did for me, that all students achieve at high levels and are given every opportunity to do so both in and out of school.

But the key tenet that my family was committed to, that the KnowledgeWorks family is committed to, that the people and organizations we’re working with are committed to, is that if we truly believe that all kids can learn, and we definitely believe they can learn at high levels, but we also understand that they learn in different ways and different time frames, then what needs to change? How does school as we know it need to change? Is movement of kids in age-based batches the right way, or can we think differently about how we support students in their movement, their achievement, their application of learning?

All kids can learn. All kids can achieve at high levels. All kids learn in different ways. How do we work with key policy makers, community leaders, and educators to ensure that we create a system that validates, honors, and supports these key tenets? The beauty of KnowledgeWorks is that we get to learn from people who are doing this work every day, and we get to support states, communities, educators, and most importantly, kids, in making that vision of all learners achieving at high levels, in their own way, possible.