Look up radical at dictionary.com, and you will see that when used as an adjective the word refers to “going to the root,” “fundamental,” or “thorough or extreme especially as regards change from accepted or traditional forms.” Similarly, the Oxford English Dictionary describes radical as “going to the root or origin, touching or acting upon what is essential and fundamental … especially radical change.”

According to dictionary.com, as a noun radical can refer to “a person who holds or follows strong convictions or extreme principles,” or “a person who advocates fundamental … reforms by direct and often uncompromising methods.” These definitions, especially root and reform, help us understand the concept of a radical learner.

Root: So what then is the root, the origin, the fundamentals of a radical learner?  The root is learning.  The root is an uncompromising desire to create opportunities for students to learn.  The root is a deep recognition that learning is not just something we do as a means to an end; it is as central to living a healthy life as breathing, eating, and drinking. Learning is not what we do; learning is who we are.

More than two decades ago Peter Senge, talking about learning organizations, wrote the following:

Deep down, we are all learners. No one has to teach an infant how to learn.  In fact, no one has to teach infants anything. They are intrinsically inquisitive, masterful learners who learn to walk, speak and pretty much run their households all on their own … not only is it our nature to learn but we love to learn.

Radical learners know at their core that not only do their students’ lives depend on them becoming vibrant, growing learners, but their own lives depend on them being vibrant, growing learners. To learn each day is to live each day; it is as simple as that!

Reform: What then is the fundamental reform referred to in the definition of radical?  In this context, the reform is to transform our students’ learning experiences into ones where students are inspired to learn and not coerced into simply passing tests. The reform is to respect and excite students with possibilities rather than controlling and enforcing them so we stay in control.  The reform is to celebrate creativity, joy, and fun, not to enforce behaviors such as handing things in on time, being obedient in class, and following instructions.

But reform, too, means standing up for learning – fighting the dominant culture if it is against learning. More than anything else, to be a radical learner means to fight for learning by being learners ourselves.  By showing the power of learning through our own actions, we can inspire our students, our peers, and our leaders to realize how great our schools can be.  Are you a radical learner? If so, this site is for you.

You represent the potential every school holds to become an authentic home for learning. As such, you are the person who can help your school realize that potential.