I’ve been really excited about something recently that I’m calling ‘Visible Learning.’

I strongly suspect that others may have another name for this, but this seems fitting so I’m running with it.

I believe there’s a dissonance in the education system as well as in our broader culture that states learning to be the main objective but then accepts no works-in-progress, or even shuns them. As luminaries like Sir Ken Robinson (mentioned in a previous blog post here) and Seth Godin (my new hero) will espouse, this is a result of our education system being designed during the era of industrialization and being modeled in its image.  Kids born in the same year must learn at the same rate, and perform similarly to make it in life, hence standardized testing, and individual evaluation as opposed to evaluation of a collaborative group- all grave fallacies with long lasting implications.

As an adult and someone who teaches a bunch of beverage classes (at this point I have roughly 10 that I teach at 4 schools) I think about this a lot. All of my classes are currently recreational, one-session classes. On one hand this is great because people who pay to attend one class are more likely to show up in the first place, be engaged, be open to having fun, and feel uninhibited about asking for feedback on their creations. On the other hand, this makes critique a funny thing (a lot of people don’t want it) and the practice of Visible Learning –the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow- hard to achieve….there’s just not enough time.

So what is this ‘Visible Learning’ you ask?

I am defining Visible Learning as the confidence to put yourself out there- to put your work out there- knowing it may be ugly and imperfect, but that’s where you are and you’re proud of it. It’s the willingness to not only seek critique, but to embrace it and thrive on it. It’s the acknowledgement that while you may want to be perfect right away, the more empowering reality is to invest the time- reserving judgment- and when you turn around you’ll be amazed by your progress. Basically it’s the courage to learn joyfully without judgment or fear of comparison…the courage to be authentically you.

 I’ve experienced this phenomenon in groups only a couple of times in my life- once in design school when my class of 20 got together to critique individual projects, and for 15 minutes people dropped their egos and had an honest and constructive conversation. Somehow that ‘safe space’ disappeared after those 15 minutes- I think someone made a snarky remark and all of the sudden guards were up again. I remember being very sad that the teacher didn’t rein the group back in and hold us accountable, because that was the closest we came to sublime collaboration in my entire academic career.

The second time I experienced this in a group was actually this past weekend. I have been going to an amazing yoga school, run by two incredibly warm, open, incredibly intuitive women. They organized a yoga retreat a couple of hours north of the city, and 15 of us trekked up and spent the weekend there.  All I can say is that it was the most fun, most heart opening experience I’ve had in years. People took a lot of risks sharing themselves, and the reward- love, confidence, community, empowerment- has already had resounding impact on my life.

One of the factors that made this retreat experience possible was the understanding that it was a safe place. Whether we acknowledge it or not, we live in a world full of judgment- of questioning whether people’s intentions, tone, attitude are intended to hurt us or not. The more we can strip away our fears of that judgment, the more empowered we will be and the higher we will soar.

This brings me to a dream I’ve been nurturing recently. Some people reading this may have seen my mocktail photos (themselves a joyful exercise in Visible Learning- I know they’re not perfect but frankly I don’t really care, I love making them and photographing them and drinking them:)).  A bunch of people have been encouraging me to make them into a book, (including some friends who initially thought I was a wack-job for wanting to make beautiful mocktails) and I’ve decided to pursue it! But publishing a book doesn’t get to the heart of what I want to do with this, and I’ve been mulling over this part for years.

‘The Dream: Part 2’ is that I want to create a space where I can serve beautiful healthy food and drinks to people- that is a safe community space, a place of learning, of collaboration, of actually genuinely giving of ourselves without ego, a place that welcomes Visible Learning. (I actually already decided that I want a little sign on the door saying ‘Please check your ego at the door’ with an arrow pointing to a basket labeled ‘ego check.’) LOL.

In any case, ‘The Dream: Part 1’ is already in progress (though if anyone has thoughts on content or what publisher might be a good fit, ideas would be super appreciated.) We’ll see how long it might take for ‘Part 2’ to happen, but it’s on the brain. Maybe it starts as a pop up or as a multi day class, who knows. For now, excitement is a great start:)