I just finished a session at ISTE 2010 by Chris Lehmann (@chrislehmann on Twitter) on Thoughtful School Reform. Besides turning a lot of my assumptions upside down (which happens every time I hear anything he says) and having far more to process than I could possible fit into one blog post (so I won’t try), I walked away with an interesting question. It was not something he addressed directly, but it was embedded in many of the points we discussed in the session:

“Who are the learners in your school?”

What answers would you get if you asked this question tomorrow? I suspect that in many cases, if the askee didn’t just look at you like you’d lost your mind, they’d say, “Uh, duh, the students?”

If that’s the only answer you get, though, there’s a lot of work to do. Everyone in a school needs to be a learner, needs to think like a learner, and needs to be treated like a learner. Teachers, volunteers, parents, aides, facilities staff, bus drivers, and administrators all need to understand that they are part of a learning community. Everyone still has something to learn, everyone has something to teach.

We make an effort in our family to eat dinner together as often as we can. Even if it’s only a brief time, we are deliberate about making it happen. Dinner often interrupts stuff the kids are more interested in, like playing outside, surfing the Web, reading, and so on. Our youngest son typically will pick at his food, eat a few bites, and say, “I’m full.” While, we’re not looking to get our kids in the habit of eating when they’re not hungry, we’re also responsible for making sure he’s not malnourished. So we’d tell him, “You can’t possibly be full yet. You need to eat a little more before you can leave the table.”

What was funny, and now a family joke, is that it didn’t take long for him to catch on, and instead of telling us when he was done, he started asking, “Can I be full yet?”

I don’t believe there is a single person involved in any school who has the right to ask “Can I be full yet?” The answer should always be no.

I’m thinking that this would be a great interview question. The answer would tell you a lot not only about the perspective of the applicant, but also how they are likely to work with their colleagues and parents.

I’m curious too about your thoughts: What are the implications and consequences of asking (and answering) this question? I’d also be interested in finding out about people that actually do ask this, and what kinds of answers you get. What are you going to do tomorrow to start changing what answer people give?