In reimagining learner-centered environments, equitable partnerships are critical components of progression. When a sense of “working with” rather than “working for” one another exists, a culture of “WE" can be fostered. An environment where everyone feels a sense of unity in knowing that they are working together within a synergistic learning network. In this shift of perspective, the students are not working for the teachers and parents. The teachers, secretaries, and custodial staff are not working for the principals and department chairs. They, in turn, are not working for the school board and superintendent. Each is simply working together. Within organizations of growth and sustainability, the concept of “WE” is embraced. Imagine the possibilities for transformation if each contributor brought their diverse ideas, talents, and abilities to the collective. Even greater, what if a mutual platform built from respected and trusted relationships cleared the path for empowerment over control?
The story of unobstructed learning is what matters most. With the belief that each stakeholder is a lifelong learner constantly evolving, we acknowledge that no one person has all the solutions. The unique ability to apply awareness to individual experiences allows networks to grow. Without awareness, opportunities to lead are missed (Smith, 2002). Regardless of a position held or role fulfilled, learners should see themselves as equals in generating a fluid culture of thought. We have always believed that leadership is shaped by how one navigates themselves professionally, as attributes can undoubtedly surface at any moment. Numerous times, we've observed struggling learners persevere and take charge of initiatives simply because they were given the opportunity to do so. Whether looking at the relationship between a student and teacher, parent and teacher, or principal and teacher, our experience has been that optimal learning occurs when all internal and external contributors are empowered to uncover the best version of themselves. As France suggests, "empowerment is about creating conditions and policies in which individuals can connect with a power that already exists inside of them (2023)."
Building environments that motivate and inspire lifelong learning should be at the heart of an educational vision. With passion for bringing about change, it is important to understand that the fixed traditional model of managing individuals will do more to divide than assist in coalescing toward a strategic plan of growth. Bringing about change within professional learning cultures requires decision making that cultivates individual identity in order build network consensus. In doing so, individuals can find commonality that allows them to examine actionable school visions so that everyone is united under a collective sense of purpose (France, 2023). Through a constructivist framework, the essence of learning is prioritized.
On a reflective note, when learning is viewed through a synergistic lens where “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” a sense of meaning and purpose develops. Over time, as individuals are given opportunities to navigate their growth autonomously, the chance of them becoming more engaged, creative, and connected increases. From this perspective, we cannot help but ask, “Isn’t this agency exactly what we, as educators, parents, and administrators, would want for all learners, ourselves included?” If every piece of the puzzle significantly matters to the outcome of the collective, valuing each unique learner becomes central to the evolution of progress.
Smith, C. (2005). Servant leadership: The leadership of Robert K. Greenleaf,
Greenleaf, R.K. (1991). The servant as leader. Indianapolis, In The Robert K.
Greenleaf Center. [Orginally published in 1970, by Robert K. Greenleaf].
France, P.E. (2023). Six mindset shifts to make teaching sustainable, ASCD Blog.