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Learning at its Best, Philosophical Meanderings

In the year 2012, I will strive to become a student of…

I’ve had it with New Year’s resolutions. I’m sure I’m not alone in that sentiment, am I? Oh, I still welcome the New Year as an opportunity to look back, look ahead, and to think about how my life might be just a little better. But after 53 years of life on this planet, I thought that it might be time to adopt a different approach.

This year, I’m beginning my 2012 planning with a sentence starter. It goes something like this:

“In the coming year, I will strive to become a student of…”

I know that for many folks that hang out around the Catalyst, this will not be an earth-shattering concept. People here are already intimately aware of the need to assume the role of learner if we are going to be successful in developing and nurturing responsive learning environments for our students. Adopting the attitude of a learner is also important if we hope to continue both our professional and personal growth.

But the two questions that have dogged me over the past week relate to, first, the one thing that I w

ould be willing to give myself over to for a full year in order to increase my fluency, my proficiency and my know

ledge and second, how to most effectively adopt the stance of student.

 First, what is it that I would want to become a student of in the year 2012.

My answer? CREATIVITY!

In the year 2012, I will strive to become a student of Creativity.

Creativity is one of those elemental aspects of our humanity. It’s not something that we need to acquire; it’s not something that we need to go out and purchase. Creativity requires no special equipment and I don’t think that it needs to become a cost centre in my annual budget.

Instead, it is my sense that creativity is something that is already part of me. I see evidence of it in my life: in my writing, in my music, in the way that I approach my work and my relationships. At the same time, I believe that, if I commit to giving myself over to learning more about it, practicing it more intently, my life will somehow be different.

But the second question that I’ve had recently goes beyond the actual “thing” that I have chosen to pursue, and can be found in the first part of the statement:

In the year 2012, I will strive to become a student of Creativity.

It’s becoming a student that is going to require the thought, the planning and the real intentionality, dedication and discipline. And it’s becoming a student that, I believe, is going to be the most important part of the journey this year. After all, when was the last time that I really and truly adopted the stance of student. When was the last time that I put aside what I thought I knew about something to give myself over to more in-depth study and pursuit.


I suppose that I’ve experienced the student stance in small ways over the past number of years: learning how to cook more effectively, stepping back and watching my own kids grow up, pursuing a Masters degree in education. But even here, was I truly able to give up the need to appear to be the expert and put myself in the hands of some other authority?

I’m not sure, but I sense that becoming a student of something will require a type of emptying out:

  • I will need to lose many of the assumptions and preconceptions that I may have about creativity
  • I will need to clear out the other things in my life that might distract me from serious pursuit of my subject
  • I will need to hold open this newly-created space and avoid filling it with “resources” that I think will help me but, in the end, might just offer more distraction (This will be a challenge!)
  • I will need to quiet my innate desire to know

Having cleared a space in my life for serious “study”, I will need to rest and get ready to welcome the teacher.

People that know me are likely to say, “Well, you’re already creative”. And, there is a certain sense in which they are right. After all, I play the piano, I love to write, and I enjoy approaching the world from different perspectives. Heck, I’m the Arts consultant for a relatively large school district!

But, even though I have played music most of my life, I don’t yet consider myself a musician. Although I love to write, I wouldn’t be so bold to identify myself as an author. And even though I love the idea of approaching the world from a creative stance, I realize that there is much to learn about the creative process and how best to ignite it in my life.

But again, a big motivator in adopting this approach to the new year has to do with the act of becoming a student. It has to do with the discipline and commitment involved in reversing roles, assuming that I have a lot to learn and developing an attitude of learning as opposed to teaching.

So, here I am one week into the year 2012, declaring to myself and to you, my cherished colleagues, that in the year 2012, I will strive to become a student of creativity.

And hopefully, this will make me a better teacher!

As always, your insights and suppport are greatly appreciated.

About Stephen Hurley

After working for over 30 years in Ontario's public education system, I continue to work passionately throughout Canada, still very committed to the idea of effective, powerful learning experiences for all participants. A musician, technology-watcher, father, husband, I find life in the world of education, even when the conversations get a little contentious. If I were to be doing anything else right now, it would be hosting my own syndicated radio program on--you guessed it--education. I blog in a few spots. My personal blog can be found at I can also be found hanging around and, most recently, I can be found on twitter as @stephen_hurley


3 thoughts on “In the year 2012, I will strive to become a student of…

  1. Stephen,

    This is a refreshing way to reconceive New Year’s Resolutions. To follow you, I will strive to become a thirsty and unafraid student about what I do not know, and develop humility and a sense of wondering around that. I will pause to consider the ways in which my academic and cultural training has limited my capacity to know and understand, and has trained me to assume that my way of knowing is better. Finally, I am intrigued as a learning problem by the ways in which conflict may be a source of creativity, and the idea that “the more relevant the curriculum, the more emotional will be the learning group” (George Lakey, Facilitating Group Learning for Diverse Adult Learners, 2010). What does this mean for me a teacher? As a constructor of adult learning? I strive to be in these questions in 2012.

    With respect for your intentions, and in hopes of supporting them,


    Posted by Kirsten | January 9, 2012, 10:01 am
  2. Kirsten,

    Thanks for your enthusiastic response. A critical approach to the way your own knowledge is constructed! I love it. Here’s the deal: I’ll keep you posted, if you promise to do the same!

    Best for 2012!

    Posted by Stephen Hurley | January 9, 2012, 12:31 pm
  3. Stephen,

    Your post draws to my mind, “Teach Your Children” by Graham Nash.

    Although I have no recollection of having ever made a New Year’s resolution, I look forward to hearing about your progress.

    Best wishes,

    Posted by Brent Snavely | January 12, 2012, 8:23 am

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