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Monthly Archives: July 2011

Connectivity + Synchronicity = Love

Senge (2006) indicated personal mastery embodies two underlying movements. First, individually we continually clarify what is important and, second; continually learn how to see our personal reality more clearly (pp. 131 – 132). To do those things we need the space, a combination of time and place, to reflect.Spokaneprovides that space and I spend more time in reflection. I can step back from the cauldron of everyday life, its demands on me, and the ubiquity of problems to be resolved.

Since arriving July 3rd, between readings, writing, and conversations, I took time to reflect. I read Blessed Unrest by Paul Hawken in which he writes about connectivity or synchronicity (Jungian) in the world. I have witnessed some of the same in my life. 12 years ago, driving to work, I was immersed in my normal daily routine of listening to the radio. Usually, when the horoscope came on, I flipped to a CD or turned the radio down. That morning I listened. My horoscope informed me I would have a second chance and I should take advantage. Later that morning, I was called in to re-interview for a teaching role at Stony Creek. The rest is history: the job was offered, I accepted, and began the following September.

That May morning, I was afforded a chance to work and learn in the company and presence of families and educators at Stony Creek. I “felt connected to others and to life itself … part of a larger creative process, which [I] can influence but cannot unilaterally control” (Senge, 2006, p. 132). Personal mastery is about unseen forces which move us in the direction of what we are good at and love. It is a part of the creative process I have been ensconced in at Stony Creek.

I will leave you with a line from a beautiful Michael Franti song called Say Hey: I Love You:

“It seems like everywhere I go/ The more I see, the less I know/ But I know, one thing, That I love you.” You, in this case, is the learning and being part of a creative process. Any time we create, it should be for the love of what we do individually and collectively.

 

Trying to Understand Personal Mastery

I am working to understand personal mastery in my life. As I was journaling the old-fashioned way, I had a breakthrough. We discussed in class the other night how people are called to do good works while in the company of others. Personal mastery is an emergent process echoing the lines of Robert Frost’s classic poem, The Road Not Taken, but, in this case, both paths are overgrown. Each new step we take is part of an emergent process. In a remarkable poem, Just a minute, said a voice, Mary Oliver gave us these lines: “‘Just a minute,’ said a voice in the weeds./ So I stood still/ in the day’s exquisite early morning light/ and so I didn’t crush with my great feet/ any small or unusual thing” (2004, p. 45).

If personal mastery is emergent, how does it fit with personal vision? It does, and is the process by which my personal vision comes to life and is fulfilled. I realize how obvious all this has been with answers in plain view. Parker Palmer, like Deborah Meier, is a teacher and learner I admire from a distance. Frequently, I am drawn back to explore his words. I find myself reflecting on a line from The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher’s Life. “Authority is granted to people who are perceived as authoring their own words, their own actions, their own lives, rather than playing a scripted role at great remove from their own hearts … I reclaim my identity and integrity, remembering my sense of selfhood and my sense of vocation” (Palmer, 2007, p. 34). This authoring is the learning and finding balance between the advocacy and inquiry I wish to undertake in my life.

Bolman and Deal (1995) used authorship to describe this authority as we co-create life’s composition through word and action while engaging the spirit of learning and welcoming to the inner teacher we each possess (p. 73). Sir Ken Robinson (2009) used the term the element to describe a place where the sweet spot of what I love to do and what I am good at meet, revealing wholeness as I author life (p. 8).

Each time I take a step, I will be reminded of the uncertainty of where I step, just like Mary Oliver. I am learning my way through the world and mastering my presence.

Personal Mastery: A Tribute to Those Who Lead

Quite often, we relegate celebratory accolades to people we have never met, legendary heroes in a mythical world when, in truth, heroes work right next to us. I have been blessed twofold. First, I worked with such a person for six years. Ruth was and is an educational pioneer. Seventeen years ago, she embarked on an educational quest. I recently had the opportunity to acknowledge Ruth, her wisdom, her courage, and her pioneering spirit as she retired. I am fortunate and grateful I could articulate these characteristics first in a public setting and, now, virtually. We rarely seize opportunities to speak from the heart. We can describe Ruth as a “teacher who met children where they were in their learning.”

The second person I am acknowledging is Deborah Meier. I have never met Ms. Meier, but her writings have inspired and encouraged me to believe I can be a better teacher by being a better learner. I am currently reading In Schools We Trust: Creating Communities of Learning in an Era of Testing and Standardization, and I previously had read The Power of Their Ideas: Lessons for America from a Small School in Harlem plus several articles. Her pioneering vision, her work in innovative school settings inNew York andBoston, and her candour have provided me with great insight into the possibilities that exist in public education. Today, as I was reading, she offered the following: “I believe we can reinvent schools to better conform to what we know about teaching and learning. Such reinvention will require patience … ‘One teaches best by listening and learns best by telling’” (Meier, 2002, p. 23).

Although this quote comes from Deborah Meier, it could have easily come from Ruth. When children speak, when their parents speak, we should listen attentively as if they were the only people who mattered in the world at that moment. When it comes time to tell, it is narrative of who we are that matters to the person in front of us.

Personal mastery calls on us to be present and responsive to the children we inherit the earth from. It calls on us to learn from those with wisdom in this quest. In a wonderful book edited by Mike Seymour called Educating for Humanity: Rethinking the Purposes of Education, Sam Intrator (2004) explained “a companion is the person with whom you share bread on a journey; a companion is a messmate, a comrade, and a fellow sojourner. In my own journey as a teacher, I cherish those people and resources that help me do my best and most inspired work. Their presence in my life helps beat back the forces that would otherwise exhaust me, deplete me, or leave me feeling too lonely to be fully present for my students” (p. 63). Ruth provides an example of such a person and Deborah Meier of a resource, allowing me to be present on a daily basis. To grow, we need both and must be attentive to their words and actions.

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