Hope, Love, Resilience in Education

When educators gather, something amazing happens that equals more than the sum of its parts.  Some say it is when 2+2 = 5, but I like to think about when 2+2= Magic! That’s what happened October 2nd at the Coach Barn at Shelburne Farms. 

Educators from near and far joined together for Stories of Hope, Love and Resilience. While you may wonder what those three words have to do with education, eighty educators knew right away. The words spoke to them and their professional practices, and they launched into discussing the question: “what gives you hope in education?”

We know there is a lot that might engender despair. In Vermont, the spring 2014 science assessments made many cringe, as does the ongoing debate over consolidation and financing.  Many people focus on annual test data and react with: “Give teachers more training in math and literacy strategies!”  In our professional learning programs, we believe that focusing on the negative, is, well, just that. We believe that turning our gaze to what is working, to what successful strategies look like, and, most importantly, to stories, is a more fruitful endeavor.

Daniel Baron’s personal narrative of what drove him to start The Project School in Indiana was one story. He spoke about his grandson, his hero, who lives with a chronic illness and disability that made the idea of living–let alone schooling–extremely complicated. Led by his belief that his grandson could thrive in school, if done differently, Daniel, his daughter, and other dedicated educators have “created an authentic, intentional, democratically led school grounded in core beliefs and values of heart-mind-voice.”

His message was clear and inspiring: take down the barriers between educational practice and personal values. Find hope.

Hope underpins all our work in education for sustainability. It’s not always easy, and it can get lost in the day to day of running a classroom or a school. But at our gathering we heard from lots of educators about where they find it.

One educator/parent from Thetford Vermont, driven by a passion for sustainability, shared how she has been seeking inspiration for her local school by visiting other schools in the region with a similar mission. Most recently, she visited the Sustainability Academy in Burlington. She’s finding hope in learning about their practices and in connecting to a growing network of schools that are trying to orient their school’s vision and teaching practices to more directly educate for sustainability.

Our professional learning opportunities at Shelburne Farms support this type of networking as a way to inspire and support educators. And we have an ace in the hole: the beauty of our landscape. So we ended our day outside, surrounded by the lake, forests, and shoreline at Shelburne Farms. The landscape not only inspires, it provides insight for creating a healthy school system – adaptive, resilient, diverse – where every child can learn, grow, and be successful.

Conversations swirled long after the day closed, like the leaves in the courtyard.  Hope. Love. Resilience. What gives you hope in education? How do you connect your professional practice with your personal values?

 

Jen Cirillo

Posted by Jen Cirillo

October 15, 2014

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