In one of my favorite books on teaching — The Courage to Teach — Parker Palmer reminds us of the importance of learning in community:
The growth of any craft depends on shared practice and honest dialogue among the people who do it. We grow by private trial and error, to be sure — but our willingness to try, and fail, as individuals is severely limited when we are not supported by a community that encourages such risks. (1998, p. 144)
Here is a picture of Mac’s toddler learning community. (Mac is smack dab in the middle, of course. He clearly values surrounding himself with other learners. Or – he likes to be the center of attention…)
Mac is reminding me that it often is better to learn with others. Though Mac is a natural risk taker, I think that having other kids to learn from and with is already key to his development. He and his co-learners may not have “honest dialogue” (yet) in the way that we do as adult learners, but they do have shared practice and they learn from watching each other and supporting each other. Just yesterday Mac’s friend Jack was helping Mac learn how to best hold the shovel so he could get the dirt from the flower bed to the bucket without it spilling. Now THAT’S helpful!
Here is another picture of all of them in active learning mode. Mac is the kid with the dark red shirt on, right side. The kids are learning Itsy Bitsy Spider — Out comes the sun! This particular skill has been transferable to drying his arm pits after bath time, getting arrested for throwing a toy across the room, and semaphore (should he ever need it).
PREVIOUS INSTALLMENTS OF “WHAT MY TODDLER HAS TAUGHT ME ABOUT ADULT LEARNING” CAN BE FOUND HERE: