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Leading Adult Learners


27 Feb

What can we learn from kids

Posted by Joan Dalton

If you still care and wonder about past student learners you have taught, then you will understand how thrilled I was to receive this message via LinkedIn this morning:

A VERY long time ...
I feel I should start with “Good morning, Mrs Dalton”. 1967 - East Brunswick State School. Hope all is well! Cheers Neil


Photo of preps at East Brunswick State School

Memories came flooding back of the first day of school, and a four and a half year old boy walking into the prep classroom, looking up at me as I greeted him, saying ‘I can read the newspaper.’

It turned out that not only could Neil read the newspaper, he was a great thinker and learner. What a challenge to meet in one’s second year of teaching, when most of the other prep children had just arrived in Australia by boat from Greece or Italy.

As I strove to address Neil’s learning needs, (not very successfully as I now reflect), a lifelong interest in individual differences and diversity was born, leading several years later to a post-graduate degree in Special Education and a thesis in Giftedness.

We often think about the impact we have, and want to have, on the student learners we teach. I wonder how often we think of the impact they have on us, and what we have to learn from them.

Not only did I learn from Neil the importance of recognising and building on from where all children were in their learning, I learned about the importance of retaining a sense of humour:

I remember one day saying to the preps: ‘If you want to be packed up in time for the bell, you’ll have to pull your socks up!’ He looked at me and quietly said with a knowing smile: ‘Mrs Dalton, haven’t you noticed - some of the kids aren’t wearing socks.’


As your 2020 school year gets underway: (whether you lead student or adult learners)

  • What is the impact you want to have on the learners you work with this year? What difference do you want to make?
  • What do your learners have to teach you? What do you want to learn from them?
  • How might you have a conversation with learners about this, along with how you see your role and how they see their role, so they understand that we are all learners and we are all teachers/leaders?

I’d love to hear about the impact learners have had on you, and what you’ve learned from them.

This personal story is intended to begin what I anticipate will be regular Blogs during 2020.

My next Blog will share something of my forthcoming new book, Learning Culture for Learning Impact, which is now with the wonderful NZ Design Team @ Smartwork Creative, who no doubt will bring it to life as they’ve done with my series of Learning Talk books.


I love this Joan, and your questions to pose with the students, so important and telling.Indeed we have so much to learn from our little people, that helps to make our input meaningful and makes us smile too! Working with a struggling little fellow just now who’s attitude has markedly changed for the better simply because the learning experiences are tailored so that he can achieve success. No point in trying to step onto the top rung if you haven’t climbed from the lower ones :) You both are priceless treasures.xx

Posted by Pauline Mundie on May 03, 2020

Patricia, that’s a great point you make about other children being able to read the newspaper in their own language, and something that today I trust we would honour by working in partnership with parents and caregivers, and taking the time to find out exactly what learners know and can do before building on from that.

Posted by Joan Dalton on March 01, 2020

Kia ora Joan

I am a resource Teacher of Literacy in the Westland Cluster. I support and assist students with their learning from all levels of the primary sector i.e. Y1-Y8. So I am constantly aware of their needs and think about where they are at and how I can advance them small steps at a time.
The group I am excited about assisting are 3 boys in Y7/8. I would like to get them so inspired about reading that they will be hookked into reading about things they are interested in. What do the learners have to teach me? Be patient, understand where they are coming from,listen to their conversations . Each of them has a story to tell. I would like to talk to them about how their world will open up/change when they get hooked into reading books. Having examples to show them what they can read and if they can see the benefits of becoming readers for pleasure rather than it being a barrier to who they are.

Posted by Michelle Urmson on February 29, 2020

Hi Joan,
It was lovely to read your blog. It’s been too long! I have some really fond memories of teaching Preps at Donburn PS, where you and I first met but a touching moment for me was when a past student whom I’d worked with in the Reading Recovery program a few years prior, rushed up to me at Doncaster Shoppingtown, proudly displaying a Chapter book that he had just purchased. His words, “Look Mrs. Hanke, I can read Chapter books!”
Love to you and David

Posted by Judi Hanke on February 29, 2020

What precious memories to share with us. You are the teacher who has never stopped teaching, and I am so glad to still be learning from you. You are a star Joan!

Posted by Mark Hogbin on February 29, 2020

Maybe some of the other children could read the newspaper in Greek or Italian but didn’t have the English words to say so.

Posted by Patricia Fenton on February 29, 2020

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