Just Because: Rethinking Educator Lifelong Learning

Learning ‘Just Because’

The ‘Just Because’ program concept is simple, like pineapple charts, entirely grassroots. In base terms, it’s a program where educators facilitate learning on a topic we are passionate about for other educators to experience. We began with these two guiding principles:

  1. Sessions should be designed with creation in mind. Physical, digital, ideas, and anything else that can be created.
  2. Sessions cannot be directly tied to educational pedagogy. If indirect connections can be made, great, but it is not the focus.

The Direct Impact

During its trial year (starting in November), educators from across the school have or will host twenty-four sessions with around 350 participants (approximation as sessions are still scheduled for the end of the year). We are currently running two or three different sessions a month on an even broader range of topics than we could have initially imagined.

The Indirect Impact

Three impacts of ‘Just Because’ stand out as catalysts to culture change within our school. First, eighteen different teachers and leaders have hosted workshops. They’ve each gained experience facilitating adult learning in a low risk environment. This, in a broader sense, helps boost confidence and a willingness to share educational pedagogy within the school and beyond. As a school community, it promotes an environment where sharing knowledge and passing along expertise about anything and everything is prevalent.

Five Steps to Implement in your School

If you are interested in launching something like this in your school, follow these five steps to get your process under way.

1. Get a Group of Early Adopters

Gather a group from your school community that you know would be keen to run a session on something awesome. Working together, try to create an original lineup that has a good diversity of learning experiences. Choose people who you know will run engaging learning experiences. First impressions on these will be important and word spreads quickly if these types of sessions are impactful or a waste of time.

2. If it Looks Good, it Must Be

Before launching to staff, create a visually appealing place to house your learning experiences. You want to wow people when they open it for the first time and give them a feeling that “These are going to be awesome.” This document should be as simple as possible, with very little wording. We linked each image in our “Just Because” flier to its individual sign-up form for easy access.

3. Open it Up

Once you have a few successful sessions and people have a better understanding of what this is, open up the sign-up to run learning experiences to your entire school staff. For this, we shared a Google form that went through a few iterations to better help those who were filling out the form, and to assist with creating the blurb and sign-up details for those organizing. In its current form, as long as the person signing up fills it out correctly, it is nearly all copy and paste and then finding a date. This ease makes it manageable for both the facilitators and the organizers.

4. Continuous Sharing

Finding a balance between making people aware of upcoming opportunities and blasting them too many times with reminders is always tricky. We decided to have the admin team share through their weekly divisional update to staff by including a link so people always know where to find it. In addition, approximately every other month, we send out a reminder email and includes new opportunities that have been scheduled.

5. Involve the Community

This is a step we have not taken yet, but we are imagining what this might look like. We started within our school community only providing opportunities to educators. The next natural step is to open up to parents and students to both join and facilitate sessions. The hope would be to extend these ideals of lifelong learning and to a wider audience. We will likely start out by keeping some sessions only open to educators, but we believe this could still be an impactful step to growing the program.

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