Creating Brave Spaces for Learning


Albert Einstein is quoted as having said, “I never teach my pupils, I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn.” I don’t pretend to fully understand his General Theory of Relativity, but this quote resonates with me so much so that it holds the illustrious status of being included in my email signature.  I like it because a) it allows me to quote Einstein without worrying about Math, and b) it captures the complicated web of teaching and learning in a succinct and accessible way.  It seems only fitting that Albert Einstein came to mind when I was challenged to consider how I contribute to student learning at Nipissing University.

I generally meet with students on a one-on-one basis.  I try to maintain a comfortable space and read the individual student to determine how they’re best going to learn what they need.  Learning is the result of involvement on the part of the student, so I can’t always predict how that’s going to happen or what they’re going to take from our interaction.  What I can do, like Einstein suggested, is facilitate the learning process and increase the likelihood of learning through the creation of a brave space that is tailored to their needs.

Brave spaces aren’t limited to one-on-one appointments.  I make every attempt to establish that space for students in all of our interactions.  Once students learn how I can help them, I am very likely to have a student disclose an insecurity to me so I must present myself in a way that allows students to start that discussion in order to begin facilitating learning.

The past few weeks have really highlighted and challenged how I attempt to make a brave learning environment for our students.  Conversations about grammar, fairness, and the future happened while learning how to crochet, and peer-to-peer learning opportunities about everything from Math to English happened while baking chocolate chip cookies.  By creating a brave space during a time of insecurity, students had the opportunity to learn with me and I had the opportunity to learn from them.

My view of how I contribute to learning was once restricted by the lens of being a teacher.  My evolving understanding of learning has opened my perspective to see that the creation of a brave “conditions in which [students] can learn” directly contributes to student learning.