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Learning at its Best

Not Reformation…Not Transformation, but Restoration

I just posted this over at the Canadian Education Association blogspace!

I have a bucket list, but it’s not the one derived from the movie of the same name. No, my bucket list is a compilation of all the household chores that I’m unable to complete in a cursory manner. The things on my bucket list, generally speaking, require a bucket—as well as warm soapy water, scouring pads and a lot of elbow grease. Like many of you, these are things that, while not necessarily appealing at the moment, end up leaving us with a feeling of deep satisfaction and pride.

Late last week, inspired by weather that far exceeded my expectations and accompanied by a brand new bucket, a selection of cleaning supplies, my iPad and an afternoon beverage, I headed to the backyard to tackle one of the dirtiest jobs on my list. I know, I really should have done this late last fall, but I assured myself that I would continue to cook outside during the winter months!

I purchased a new grill last year, justifying the extra cost by making a firm (!) commitment to its maintenance and care, so this was an important task. After watching a YouTube video produced by the manufacturer, I began the task of dismantling the appliance, piece by piece, and laying it carefully out on the patio. As expected, I was initially overwhelmed by the enormity of the task ahead of me.

But as I examined the various pieces of cast iron and stainless steel that lay before me, it suddenly struck me that this wasn’t just a cleaning job but a project in restoration.

The layers of grease that had collected in the various nooks and crannies could not simply be wiped away with a damp cloth or dissolved with some caustic chemical. They needed to be loosened and scraped away—layer by layer, bit by bit. The igniter tubes could not just be dusted off. The particles of residue that can clog the fine openings in each tube required some very careful brushwork, with the appropriate tool, and in the proper direction. The stainless steel coverings and shelves couldn’t be quickly wiped down. Instead, the degreaser that I used needed some time to work before being shone back to their original lustre.

Whether we’re talking about an outdoor grill, a piece of antique furniture, a system or a human life, restoration is something that takes time, attentiveness and effort. It’s not for those in a hurry, or those without a belief that something worthwhile lies in wait beneath the accumulated layers of stuff. In a culture that, increasingly, appears to favour quantity over quality, fast over slow, information over knowledge and disposablity over longevity, it is difficult to  begin a conversation about restoration.

But it’s an idea that has lingered with me throughout this past week, and its an idea that I would like to dedicate some time to in the weeks to come.

What if we were to shift some of our discourse about school reformation—even transformation—to one of restoration? Instead of adding more and more layers to our systems of education, what would it look like if we started to strip away some of what has built up over the decades? What might we discover if we took the time to look at what lies beneath the surface? What might we learn about our core values and purpose if we adopted a restorative perspective towards education? What might we discover about the people who enter our schools everyday?

What if we were to add restoration of our systems of education to our bucket list?

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


One thought on “Not Reformation…Not Transformation, but Restoration

  1. Hi Stephen,
    I very much appreciate the way you link Education to cleaning, because when I am cleaning my home (I do deep cleaning often with four kids and 2 cats) I do the same!! It truly makes perfect sense. We are at a point in time where it is necessary. The evolution of the learner is quickly making schools anachronistic. Resistance and refusal to acknowledge the system needs “cleansing” has led to labeling students with “disabilities” and “disorders”. To me, it is their evolutionary code “breaking a system” that is no longer sustainable. I wrote about this a few years ago:

    hoping to ignite educators’ passion for renewal and do just what you say, do away with what no longer works and…well you can read it if you feel called to.
    Thanks for a great analogy! Let’s peel away and get to the core.

    Posted by Lisa Lopez | May 6, 2013, 8:58 am

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