I Wonder Why…..

I wonder why…

… as educators we are so eager to abandon “tried and true” practices, that have been proven over decades to be important to student learning?

It took a pandemic to do some housekeeping of a floor-to-ceiling bookcase of 40+ years of educational materials, that led to a moment of discovery.

It was grandma’s old schoolbook. She taught grades 4-5-6. The year was 1917. It opened with “a talk to the pupil”, suggesting they “should apply their strengths, discuss ideas with classmates, and that improvement will eventually become noticeable for them as they persist and practice.” This letter to students was followed by a note to the teacher stating, “…if results of value are to be achieved, children must enjoy their work…  speak freely and purposefully.”

Now a hundred years later, we realize that grandmas book contained the sophisticated simplicity that is even more important today. Our reflection on four decades of work across educational settings has led to the realization that CIA (curriculum, instruction, assessment) doesn’t come first.  No matter how good the curriculum, and how great the instructional strategies, if we do not develop relationships that build confidence in our students and help them to recognize their strengths and their value as people, the degree of disenfranchisement accruing within students will spiral.

If we fail to bring back the joy that resides in learning, discovering, and finding things out… there will be no lifelong learners in our wake.  They are essential for our future.


Dr. Robert K. Greenleaf was formerly a professional development specialist at Brown University. Bob has 45 years of experience in education ranging from superintendent, principal, teacher, & special education.  As President of Greenleaf Learning Bob has traveled the world conducting Brain & Learning Institutes.  Dr. Bob’s doctoral work was at Vanderbilt with undergraduate psychology.  bob@greenleaflearning.com

Elaine M. Millen, M.Ed. C.A.G.S., has over 50 years of experience in education as a teacher, principal, director of special education, curriculum director, and assistant superintendent of schools.  She has taught at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.  As an educational consultant/instructional coach, she has worked countrywide with hundreds of school leaders in areas of leadership, instructional coaching, and student engagement.  She worked with Brown University as a consultant, guiding project work.  Elaine.millen90@gmail.com