Sunday, April 25, 2010

Hawaiki’s Poppas’ Shirt

Louise was helping my grandson, Hawaiki, now 2 years and 5 months old, get dressed for a funeral. She showed him the shirt his uncle had given him. It was a lovely, checked shirt, with long sleeves and button-down pockets. He slid his arms in the sleeves and looked at it intently and helped the buttons get done up. He jumped off the couch, stood himself up as tall as a grandfather, smoothed his shirt and proudly said, “this a Poppas shirt, eh”. We all agreed that it did look like the checked shirts his Poppa so often likes to wear.

This episode set me to thinking. How do you know at two years old what a 'Poppa’s' shirt looks like? And also, does wearing a Poppa’s shirt mean that he has a new ‘possible learner self’? This man, his Poppa, whom he observes closely, has dispositions, habits, and clothes worthy of imitation. A Poppa - learning hero - who reads stories, plays trains, roars and chases him through the house, throws him high in the air and takes him driving on the farm motorbike. The learning hero who, when the farm bike's motor doesn’t start the first, fourth, or fifth time keeps trying calmly, solves the problem, and is justly rewarded with a bike ride around the farm. We know that Hawaiki and all children, observes closely and has a brain that is wired to imitate the people around him. The people he loves and those that love him, become his learning heroes.

Guy Claxton, in his foreword to Learning Power Heroes, reminds us “So we must be careful to be at our learning best around young children, especially if they like or admire us, for their ‘heroes’ are the people whose habits they will find most contagious. Capitalising on this rubbing-off of learning habits gives us a powerful way of influencing children’s development – for good or ill.” (p.1)

As life-long learners, children, and indeed our-selves too, deserve to engage with and relate to many positive learning heroes and, ‘try on’ a whole variety of shirts while exploring possible learner selves.

Who are your super learner heroes?

What of their habits, attributes or dispositions might be most contagious?


Carr, M. (20 April 2010) Lecture; Learning Pathways and Learning Journeys: possible learner selves.

Delaney, R. Day, L. and Chambers, M. (2009) Learning Power Heroes. TLO Limited. Henleaze House, Harbury Road, Bristol BS9 4PN. ISBN 978 901219 53 1

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