Tony Gurr

Can a committee write a poem?

In Educational Leadership, Our Schools, Uncategorized on 02/10/2011 at 8:12 am

John West-Burnham asks this thought-provoking question in his book “Rethinking Educational Leadership”.

Think about it…it is a question that touches on a great many issues in the arena of allthingslearning; creativity, change, and collaboration.

As you think, take a read of this poem – a poem that captures the hopes and dreams of many educators around the globe:


What is a Teacher?

What is a teacher?

A guide, not a guard.

What is learning?

A journey, not a destination.

What is discovery?

Questioning the answers, not answering the questions.

What is the process?

Discovering ideas, not covering content.

What is the goal?

Open minds, not closed issues.

What is the test?

Being and becoming, not remembering and reviewing.

What is learning?

Not just doing things differently, but doing different things.

What is teaching?

Not showing them what to learn, but showing them how to learn

What is school?

Whatever we choose to make it.


West-Burnham points out that committees can, in fact, write poems – this took me by surprise (as I had immediately jumped in with both feet and said “no way”)!

His rationale is this – just the mere fact that a committee is given a learning opportunity like this can be the “seed” that grows into an “oak”. Moving through the process, asking the right questions (at the right time) and being able to call on “teachers” of their own choosing – might just be enough, or the start of something different.

Simply creating time, space and opportunity to consider allthingslearning and allthingseducation by a “committee” might allow us to consider whether we are asking the right questions.


My thanks to Lee Crockett, Ian Jukes and Andrew Churches for permission to post the poem. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be publishing extracts from their new book – Literacy Is Not Enough (2011) – as a series of guest-posts.

  1. Yes indeed! Thanks for sharing this remarkable poem.

  2. I wish I could share the respondent’s enthusiasm about the ‘poem’ being remarkable. To me it represents a series of slogans, of the kind often used by those trying to ‘reform’ educational standards with little kind of insight into HOW it should be done. They are the kind of statements embraced by many an educational manager or administrator to justify what they are doing, even if they are reluctant to embrace change, or to adopt learner-centred processes of education,

    • Did someone get out of the wrong side of the bed today?

      My dearest Laurence 😉 I once read that reading a poem is 50% “technique”, 50% “attitude” – and that readers often look at a poem with a wide range of false “assumptions”. There is nothing wrong with a slogan or two being thrown into a poem – if that slogan inspires others to “re-think” and, more importantly, “re-do”, I am all for it 😉

      I know the guys at the 21st Century Fluency Project – they have insight, too and the latest book is full of ideas to help teachers do more with what they know and what they can learn. If a book (or a poem) helps one (single) teacher embrace change – that is a “win”. And, inşallah, a “win” that can be passed onto students 😉


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