A Place Where Learning Never Ends

October 5, 2009

Yesterday my husband and I went to see The Invention of Lying, a movie that takes place in a world where people can only tell the truth. The buildings are labeled with their true purpose, “A Cheap Motel for Intercourse with a Near Stranger” and a nursing home inscribed with “A Sad Place for Hopeless Old People.”

I wrote these things down during the movie on ever-present 3×5 cards because I wanted to use this idea. I imagined how a school might be labeled. Would it say “Holding Pen for Children Whose Parents Are Working” on an elementary school? Would the sign outside a high school say “Keeping Teens Out of Trouble During the Day Until They Are Old Enough to Live On Their Own”? And what would be inscribed on a university?

I know many things I’d like for the inscription to say and each of them is some version of how the place where I work is a place where learning is joyful; a place where people care about themselves, each other, the world, and about learning; a place where everyone is delighted to come and to be a part of something that is at once very personal and yet bigger than any one of us; a place where we make a difference; a creative and inspiring learning place. I could go on, and perhaps if I think about it long enough, I’ll settle on one short pithy phrase that encapsulates what I hope for.

Walt Disney called Disneyland “the happiest place on earth.” I’ve been there many times and I appreciate Walt’s aspirational phrase, but I often see evidence that people are not happy there, but are instead tired, grouchy, impatient, unhappy, angry, mean, and just plain grumpy. I know that no matter what I might wish the truth to be about the university where I work, I cannot actualize that vision by myself.

Teaching and learning are symbiotic activities. I can control outcomes if my inputs are completely negative, I suppose. My goal could be to try to make all of my students miserable and if it were, there many ways I could do so: impossible and arcane expectations, classroom mockery and cruelty, policies that make no sense, unrealistic deadlines. With very little effort, I could probably alienate most of my students.

Insuring that everyone learns is not so easy. I can do my best to make sure that a course is relevant and interesting. I can be careful in my interactions with students. I can be understanding when the unexpected occurs. I can attempt to involve students in the content and activities of a course. But what I cannot control is students’ engagement: the attitudes they bring to the classroom, their interest in learning, or their prior knowledge and abilities in relation to what we’re studying. Their willingness to engage in—and sometimes struggle with—learning is in their control.

I do not want the sign outside my school to read “A Place Where Apathy and Disinterest Dishearten Others,” but I can only promise my own enthusiasm and commitment.

What true sign would you affix to your school?

In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.
• George Orwell



  1. I usually dont post in Blogs but your blog forced me to, amazing work.. Kind regards from france

  2. A safe place for students to learn in a fun, accepting and nurturing environment.

  3. Lovely choice. W-OZ

  4. My two different signs would be (bearing in mind that I work in a Christian school):
    True/actual – “A Place Where Sinners Come to Learn About Jesus, But Mostly Learn Religion and Compliance”
    What I would like – “A Place Where Sinners Come to Learn, Love, Play, and Grow Jesus” (which actually is our actual school motto)

  5. “A 409 minute journey that will influence you for a lifetime!”

    • I am SO going to borrow that! 🙂

  6. What it is: A school where Assessments, assessments, assessments and Direct Instruction fundamentally kill a students’ desire to read.

    What I Wish it Was: An Elementary School that encourages creativity and deep meaningful thinking.

  7. A School in which to prepare students to live an intelligent, meaningful, rewarding, worthwhile life.

  8. A Place Where a Willing Heart Makes Learning Fun.

  9. A Place Where Learning and Growing are Nurtured
    and Every Child is Unique (and treated as such)

  10. A place where learning makes you smile.

  11. “A Learning Center Where Students are Active and Activities are Center Around You, the Student!”

  12. The sign I would love to affix to my classroom/school door is …….

    “A Place to laugh often, love much, and listen always.”

    I think that if a group of people can come together and learn to laugh together, especially at mistakes made, love each other (treat each other with kindness, respect) and listen to each other and the teacher a classroom where learning never ends will prevail. So much can be learned from each other and if you can create a classroom where students feel safe, loved and cared for as well as important (ideas and all) the best, most creative learning can take place.

  13. It’s a joy to be here!

  14. What I would like it to say:
    A place that offers a safe environment and makes learning fun to all who enter these doors.

    What it feels like now:
    Entering a building of chaos, district directed and full of assessments.

    • I think your sign could go above your door, if not above the building entrance doors…and I would hope that our little pod of classrooms could borrow your sign!

  15. A place for friends to feel safe making mistakes and have fun learning.

  16. Welcome to a safe place to share your creative ideas and use your talents to influence those around you daily.

  17. Two Choices:

    “To Infinity and Beyond”
    (I want to capture the kids attention and imagine the possibilities with this slogan.)

    “When You Know The Notes To Sing, You Can Sing Most Anything”
    I could change it to read:
    “When You Know the Keys To Learn, You Can Learn Every Thing”

  18. Quite literally, the signs on our school ARE quite fitting. During summer, it says “Free Lunch for all students age 2-18”. It’s sadly true… that’s what some students come for all year. But if they come, I can teach them!

    The other sign is our school name “Blossom Gulch”. I’ve seen my students blossom every year, and then for years to come as they are passed from grade to grade. I think our school was named for the locale, but I tend to think that magic happens there.

    • Maybe to more accurately describe the growing occurring in our school, the sign should say:

      “Where Learners Blossom!”

  19. “Every sudent’s values and attitudes are appreciated in a safe warm caring environent.”

  20. ♥ A love for lifetime learning starts here ♥

  21. Welcome
    A safe place, where we are responsible and respectful.
    Live, Laugh, Learn!

  22. A place to hang your hat and unleash your mind

  23. A place that encourages:
    *Believe in oneself written in stone
    *Disappointments written in the sand
    *Respect for all engraved on your heart
    *Learning and laughter, hand in hand

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