Speech Acts and the Learning Experience

It’s been a busy two weeks: meetings, exams, presentations and through it all, we have maintained our sense of humour and our sanity!  A few highlights:

·        Experience exams have been well attended;

·        Mimi Yu (grade 12) is now a “published poet” – her poem will appear in next month’s issue of Youthink Magazine;

·        Michael Bodnar has joined our JO community and will be teaching in the LAC.

The past two weeks have also been notable for the breadth of dialogue and discussion which emanated from the mid-year Department reviews.  The positive marks analysis were a reflection of your hard work over the first term; however, what resonated with me was the inherent value in sharing our stories and engaging in conversations about creating new possibilities around student achievement.  Fernando Flores, in his essay, “The Power of Words” (the-power-of-words-_-fast-company1) refers to this value as mastering the art of “speech acts”: language rituals that build trust between colleagues, word practices that open your eyes to new possibilities. He writes: Speech acts are powerful because most of the actions that people engage in — in business, in marriage, in parenting — are carried out through conversation. But most people speak without intention; they simply say whatever comes to mind. Speak with intention and your actions take on new purpose.”


The ‘speech acts’ this past week have made explicit your collective belief that our students want to do well but that they are stymied by what I refer to as ‘process deficiencies’: they don’t know how to take notes; they don’t know how to write exams; they don’t know how to decode texts; they don’t know, in the end, how to succeed. What they do know is that they want to ‘engage’ and in doing so they want to ‘understand.’  What we know is that students are engaged in meaningful and relevant conversations when our teaching is based upon the posing of critical questions as opposed to delivering information.  If we believe that students can learn by answering critical questions shouldn’t we believe the same holds true for all of us?


The attached article, “The Learning Leader / Model Teachers,” asks and answers the question, “How do teachers and school leaders learn to improve their professional practice and make meaningful change in their schools?”   The answer, succinctly, is direct modeling by colleagues.  As it is for students, so it is for us: learning is stimulated by exposure to others’ learning and is socially constructed to make sense of and respond to our surrounding environment. 




Thank you all for sharing your insight around student learning and achievement. My hope is that we can continue to create a culture in which both students and staff examine the quality of the John Oliver ‘learning experience’; my promise is that I will continue to provide the necessary space and time for this important conversation to occur.


Have a nice weekend.