Connecting on a Human Level Starts with a Smile

Topics: Future of Learning, Vision and Culture

“There will come a time when we will love humanity, when we will gain the courage to fight for an equitable society for our beloved humanity, knowing, intelligently, that when we fight for humanity, we are fighting for ourselves,” write Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds in Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You. “There will come a time. Maybe, just maybe, that time is now.”

In graduate school programs, I often received advice about not letting learners see me smile before December. According to these professors, respect was about compliance. However, when I entered my first classroom as the teacher, my primary goal was to connect with the uniquely special humans that entered my class to learn. To me that meant I needed to smile often and open my heart. In reading and digesting the content in Envisioning Human-Centered Learning Systems, my mind immediately carried me back to each first day, first smile, first high-five and first hug with the incredible humans I had the privilege of learning alongside.

The paper describes that “[human-centered learning] cultivates love and belonging for students, as well as for the many adults who play a part in students’ learning journeys. Every learner needs the security and reliability of a safe and supportive base of care in order to own their learning and engage confidently with the world.”

Cultivating love and belonging. Imagine that. What if all classrooms, schools and learning communities focused on ensuring our children, our learners, our instructional teams and our community at large felt loved and valued?

At KnowledgeWorks, we have the pleasure of serving alongside many incredible learning communities who do lead with purpose and love. In these places, learners can be seen designing new structures, connecting with others with intentional purpose, using their voices to ensure self-efficacy and for the greater good of others. And, we see these same learners eager to return and engage more confidently than the previous day. Why does that happen? I believe learners are thriving in these learning communities because the educators within it have taken the time to demonstrate the care, trust and supports that help “buffer against various social, racial and cultural stressors” our children experience daily. Equally important, the same culture of human-centeredness has been developed and nurtured for the adults who serve to make that vision a reality for their learners.

As we educators continue to do our part in supporting our children through the pandemic, let’s keep smiling through the masks that bind us. Let’s show our kids and our communities how much we love them for who they are now as they lead their own vision for who they aspire to become today and in the future. For us educators, our learners are “our fight for humanity” and, yes, their time is now.

Join us in imagining what a human-centered vision for the future of learning could mean – and how we might get there.