Oct 7, 2013
Comments Off on I Can’t Learn For You

I Can’t Learn For You

Last Thursday, my night school class started railing against teachers. More accurately, they started slagging on the bad teachers they’ve had in their school career. It started after one of them did a presentation entitled, “The Problem with the School System”.

I let it go as his audience rallied around him. The bad teacher legends were starting up when I cut in.

“Let me get this straight, you think you were unsuccessful in school because of the teachers you had?”


“You blame the teachers?”

“Yeah.” They agreed. The few became the many. They started back in on the teachers that had ‘done them wrong.’

I interjected again.

“I think you are to blame.” They stopped talking. They looked at me. “I think it is your fault you didn’t learn.” Silence. “I think, you came into this room tonight, hoping I could give you something, ready to be passive. Only a handful of you have been active in your learning so far, the rest of you are sitting waiting for learning to just happen. But the truth is learning is up to you. I can’t do that for you.”

The sat in silence. They wanted to resist. They tried to form a rebuttal. But they couldn’t.


The truth is, in a culture of passive entertainment and apathetic entitlement, school needs to reframe the process of learning.

Being passive in learning is no longer an option. The problem lies in that too many teachers, students and parents are waiting for school to teach, waiting for the information/skills to wash over them and waiting for someone else to do the work.

But the truth is, time’s up.

The radical, tactical shift that I’ve been promoting and writing about for the past three years is about moving the system towards something more active. We need to be nimble. We need to be constantly moving, changing.

There is a great quote, “Decisions are made by those who show up.” It is not completely true. We’ve got to expect more from ourselves. We’ve got to do more than just show up.


Later on in the evening, one of them approached me, “Mr. Kemp, if you can’t do the learning for us, what is your job?”

“I believe my job is to set the environment for you to learn and to offer feedback and support as you ask questions and explore. You see, I’ve been through the maze of developing these skills before and so, I’m standing in the middle. I can’t just tell you to turn right or turn left. Instead, I need to keep shouting so you can hear me, as you figure it out.”

“You really believe this?”


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