The Most Important 21st Century Skill #MCHunter

Who are you?
Why are you here?
What do you hope to leave with?

I wonder how my learners would answer these questions on the first day of school.  How would I process this information and engage with my learners so that they feel heard and valued?

Here are my answers when challenged to “dig deeper” than name, school, family, and education:

I am a collaborative learner, confused – in a good way – by my experiences and my questions.  Labeled a “math” teacher, I feel that I am a teacher of children (and adults) and need to know, lead, and learn so much more.  As a mother, I see how much my child can and wants to do.  Have I been limiting my learners because of history and assumptions? … and fears?? Why do I stay in the safety of what I know?  How do I model learning and risk taking?

I am here to learn.  I believe that we underestimate our learners, their ability, interests, and motivation.  It is easy to teach what I deem essential, but how many times have I missed opportunities because I did not ask questions and listen – really listen – to their answers?

I hope to leave with more than I have right now: more relationships, more curiosity, more willingness to experiment and do, and more courage to “do different”.

The Martin Institute for Teaching Excellence and Trinity School contributed to my personal learning growth by providing me an opportunity to participate in a Master Class with John Hunter (follow the conversations on Twitter: #MCHunter).  John Hunter (@worldpeacemovie), and Jamie Baker (@JamieReverb) facilitated the two days of professional development renewal experiences.

How often do I rush to “teach” content – the stuff they need to know?  How many times have I said “I just don’t have time to…” because I’m so focused on trying to cram in one more thing?

John and Jamie spoke of and modeled creating space, empty space…hmm….

What if my learners simply need space and time to process, question, think, share, and learn? Shouldn’t the human-ness of learners be the first focus? If the foundation is a solid relationship between and among learners, how much can be built? How sturdy? How beautiful? How long-lasting?

Spend time to gain time…Think how much more can be accomplished if learners know that it is safe to reveal their needs, concerns, strengths and weaknesses because they are in a supportive learning community focused on growth.

Today’s big take-a-way is the power of building relationships – the MOST IMPORTANT 21st Century skill.

Who are you?
Why are you here?
What do you hope to leave with?


  1. I have attended several workshops this summer, and I feel like there is some contradictory information out there. My style aligns more closely with what you describe, i.e. giving students time and freedom to experiment, discover, reflect, process, question. However, the message was clear in other workshops that teachers need to plan everyone second of instructional time for their learners because down time leads to behavior problems. They are national leaders in the field of motivation and engagement. However, how motivating and engaging can the teacher really be if he/she is micro-managing every minute?


    • I agree with you, Kristen. There are lots of contradictions about “time on task” and “behavior problems.” I’m not sure that it is “down time” that leads to behavior problems. I think behavior problems occur for many, many reasons – some that are out of our control. Are they bored? Do they already know this? Is this relevant? What is happening outside of this learning episode that might contribute to this behavior?

      I think there are important questions to be asked back to the “every minute must be planned for instruction” thinker. If we deem reflection, inquiry, and creativity as essential learnings, then how can you micro-manage time? I worry about the minute-counters. Are they seeing the children as widgets passing through on an assembly line? Do they see learning as a single direction experience?

      Don’t you think it is how the message is interpreted? I agree with the national leaders in the field of motivation and engagement about planning every second of instructional time. Part of my plan is time to think, experiment, question, and reflect. I plan to make space for learning. I plan to build a community of learners…just like you do! I say rock on!


  2. Building relationships is exactly why I teach, Jilly, and truly part of our inner essential foundations of being human! If part of what school should do is prepare students for “the world,” then what better skill/value to put at the forefront. It MATTERS. Let’s show and share with our kids the message that it matters.


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