Worth every Winx

Often times understanding how people learn is like trying to master chess. It requires the ongoing commitment to gaining greater knowledge, skills and insights. Richard Elmore talks about this in the context of the instructional core; John Bransford et al. in developing a metacognitive culture within the learning space.

I’m often asked to reflect on how we improve the quality of learning and teaching; how every student becomes a winner in the learning journey through and beyond school. I have to admit it is often a struggle to condense it into something that is clear and simple. However, recently I’ve thought about the work of good teachers as being similar to racehorse trainers. This is not a post comparing students with thoroughbred horses. Rather, it has been interesting to listen to Winx’s trainer, Chris Waller talking about how they have worked with Winx and in doing so obliterate racing’s history book.

Under the supervision of Waller, there is a committed team that regularly observes and monitors Winx on and off the track. As Waller has said in past interviews, they are always guided by how happy and sound Winx is on any given day. It is this holistic understanding that applies to good teaching also. That deep affinity between teacher and student that develops from a place of mutual trust and respect. The ability of teachers to be attuned to a student’s individual needs at any given time and to adapt tasks and experiences accordingly.

In all endeavours, it takes a team to produce the best possible outcomes. Our goal is not to train thoroughbreds but to unleash the potential of every child. How far each student can go depends on our ability to nurture their abilities, harness opportunities and sometimes take our hands off the reins.






3 thoughts on “Worth every Winx

  1. Hi Greg I am glad you chose Winx as your focus to illustrate being relational and know and understand every detail of the horse. This is very true for the great teachers. But there is a part to this equation that I often feel you always miss when you talk about new pedagogues for new times in this century.
    Unlike horse trainers, teachers can’t easilly move on students because they have deficits or challenges one way or another. Chris Waller represents the very best of top end trainers working out of top facilities. Ask any provincial or bush trainer what a Winx would mean to them and the world would be limitless. Most work with D grade horses flogging them to win at places like Louth just to put dinner on the table.
    Your analogy in many ways is true of the Australian education system where quite often the postcode you belong to determines how successful you will be in school.
    I am a great supporter of many of your ideas and in the main meta cognitive paradigms and modelling for students how to think, rather than passively receive information should be how modern classrooms operate . Where I have never been a fan of let us open the classrooms wide and flood it with enabling technology is that there is a minimum 10% of students who through no fault of their own have been born with limited cognition and or processing abilities where 21st century skills are the dream rather than reality.
    Not for one moment do I believe we don’t develop cultures of thinking and skills and knowledge for this 10%, as we are trying to do for the main,but it is very rare in your blogs you offer advice on how such kids fair in your schools where open learning spaces and technology are the norm.
    Students struggling to decode print and to learn how to chunk and integrate the three Cueing systems for reading learn the big stuff before mastering the basic stuff.
    As a school Principal where I am seen as a leader in the 21st century skills space and who has adopted cultures of thinking forces from Harvard in my school I am your greatest fan for educating for our time. However, knowing what I know about the constant 10% of students in any given cohort where basic literacy is a challenge I often feel current paradigms leave them behind rather than bringing them along.
    At any rate another great blog.

    1. Thank you Frank for your detailed response. I find myself in total agreement with you. I can only apologise if I haven’t acknowledged the issue of struggling learners before. I don’t believe I have ever laid claim to the fact that technologies and agile spaces are the solution. They are only the enablers for good teachers. I’m stating the obvious here by saying that teaching in today’s world is complex given the multitude of learning needs in schools. The way I respond to this is not in terms of the 10% of students who are struggling but in terms of what we are teaching and how we are teaching in order to improve their learning outcomes. What we must do is begin from the premise that all children can learn albeit at different starting points. Personalisation takes us into a complete rethink of the curriculum and the organisation of schooling.

      I have not been a classroom teacher for more than 20 decades but I do see how good teachers work whenever I am out in schools. Yes, there are teachers who struggle and are challenged but when I see them working collaboratively using case study methodology and are open to the collective expertise of the profession, there is a greater chance of defeating the post-code syndrome. Frank, I enjoyed reading your comments; they underscore that we do have school leaders thinking critically, reflecting on the big questions and striving to do their best for all learners. Keep in touch.

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