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Tag Archives: Learning Organizations

A Place; A Space

Recently, I began to consider the word organization and its meaning. We use it as a noun for the places where we work, learn, and play. Its root, organ, suggests life and interaction. Without all parts working together in some cohesive way, it disintegrates. As well, an organ, as a musical instrument, needs a human touch. Humans organize, work, learn, and achieve through a common purpose. When we fail, it is the humanity around us that helps us back to our feet.

This place–

This space–

Welcomes–

Beckons.

Cold, aloof–

Some frigid lover.

Not frantically clinging–

An anxious lover

Here one moment; gone the next

A capricious lover

No! Fully alive–

Not on life support!

Exudes a hearty warmth–

Healthy, vibrant.

It is the human touch;

A lover’s gentle embrace–

Arms hold close;

Not too tight

An invitation.

A place–

A space–

I want to be.

A place–

A space–

That calls me–

Gives me voice

Something in common.

Innovation – A Poem by Ivon

As I drove to work this morning, I considered the phrase “thinking outside the box.” I wonder, “Is the most apt description for innovative or creative thinking?”

When I am inside the box can I really see outside and look around effectively? I could just be hanging on for dear life. Or, when I am outside the box, can I see inside? When I wrote my candidacy paper, I interviewed the first principal of our unique, alternative school and he provided an appropriate metaphor for innovative and creative organizations-a corral fence. I wrote the following poem and tried to capture what I think he meant.

Innovate

A fence

with railings

see in or out

allow perspective.

Flow and rhythm

information in; information out

nourish

enrich

affirm

recycle

breathe and flex.

Part of a whole

complex, yet simple

reach beyond my world

one piece of a puzzle.

Present

to our self

to the world.

Never box me in.

This fit with a song I heard by Ben Harper called With my Own Two Hands. He used to front a band called the Innocent Criminals and that drew me to his music. Enjoy this creative artist.

The Space Should Be Bounded and Open

I believe paradox is essential for educational transformation. Parker Palmer described paradox as a creative tension or “a way of holding opposites together that creates an electric charge that keeps us awake” in his book The Courage to Teach. He argued “the poles of a paradox are like the poles of a battery: hold them together, and they generate the energy of life, pull them apart, and the current stops flowing…and we become lifeless.” I elaborated on paradox in my posts Abundant Community and Paradox of Community. I propose paradox be used to revitalize the institution we call school and the conversations about this necessary enterprise.

Parker Palmer in The Courage to Teach presented six paradoxes and identified ways in which they could serve us in the classroom through pedagogical design. I believe they serve educators and their communities as foundations for conversations and a long overdue transformation.

The first paradox is “the space should be bounded and open.” School cannot be a one size fits all approach, but it cannot be a chaotic, wide-open system. There are many ways to understand school from home schooling to traditional. In between, there is diversity. Is school a building? Could it be a virtual gathering? Could it be a combination? Rigid boundaries should be replaced by flexible boundaries. If they do, then we can ask, “What serves the child?” What serves the community?”

Over the next while, I will look at each paradox, and explore how they lead conversations towards transformation.

The Real Leadership Lessons of Steve Jobs – Harvard Business Review

The Real Leadership Lessons of Steve Jobs – Harvard Business Review.

Here is a great article written by Walter Isaacson. We often overlook the less obvious influences of people such as Steve Jobs.

ivonprefontaine:

I thought some of the people who read my blog might enjoy reading this posting from an excellent blog contributed to by a variety of educators. It fits with recent conversations and the World Cafe Conversations.

Originally posted on Cooperative Catalyst:

The population that makes up the structure we call “school” can be placed on a continuum to show the way in which each individual is contributing to the development (or hindrance) of democracy. Point blank: each individual needs to be knowledgeable of the fact that he or she can push schools further towards a democratic entity, but they must be cognizant of the fact that schools were originally constructed as opponents to democracy. Of course, educational historians would love to have you believe that one of the original purposes of schooling was to teach people how to behave in a democracy, but that opinion seems to work in stark contrast to rows, grades, standards, and an emphasis on conformity rather than original thought and cognitive development.

Perhaps the original proponents of schooling were more realistic about what it took to be successful in a democracy. That’s why everyone was trained…

View original 440 more words

21st Century Renaissance in Education

Will we be 21st Century Renaissance people? This question emerged from a recent conversation with a Grade 8 Social Studies class. We discussed a broad, nuanced, and emergent worldview.

Specialization and expertise are not the calling cards of success. Adaptation and transformation are at the heart of contemporary education. Transformation is not just a synonym for change and is reflective of  dramatic and systemic change. I understand transformation as a mindful, incremental process producing real change over time framed around evolving eloquent questions. What change do we need? New conversations about reimagining education producing compassionate leaders for a 21st Century Renaissance. What role will education play in helping young people become the leaders of this Renaissance? Is public education capable of transformation? Are there leaders capable of bringing forth tomorrow’s leadership? What will education of this nature look like?

Renaissance is rebirth and a time of metamorphosis and transformation. What emerges from the chrysalis stage? Ideas mature and become capable of further adaptation.  Human endeavour requires rich, inclusive conversations for profound change to occur instead of  superficial patching what the outdated models that exist. We need to prepare the soil for transformative conversations focused on eloquent questions where answers are not assumed before the conversation and invite diverse views during the course of the conversational journey.

Educational Theory in Practice

Where I work is a place that can bring me great joy. The word work is the wrong word actually. Since beginning this ‘gig’ 12 years ago, I refer to it as the place I teach and learn. I had two chances to interview for this role. Most of us only get one chance. I made the most of the second chance and the rest has been history.

What do I do? I teach and learn in a small school setting combining a traditional attendance model and home schooling. It was the ‘brain child’ of several families almost 20 year ago. They believed there was something of worth to take from both models and they helped to build a hybrid school.

I teach multi-grade junior high students three core subjects: English Language Arts, Social Studies, and Science while students attend each Tuesday and Thursday plus every other Monday. We provide complementary programming i.e. curling, food sciences, and archery. Students learn Math at home guided by their parents and with help from the teacher, in this case me. The home school component occurs on the non-attendance days and the teacher conducts regular home visits on those days, as well. Home visits help the child and/or parent with contentious Math concepts and build relationships with families.

This community uses a three-legged stool approach. Students, parents, and educators are all important contributors to the success and quality of learning and we all are learners on a journey together. Parents learn curriculum and teaching strategies assisting the learning of their children. They assist in the classroom on a regularly scheduled basis. Students grow to accept the learning journey belongs to them. They are companions in the learning enterprise and learning is with them. Teachers learn about the children and their families through open, honest conversation. What does each child need is a central question to the conversation. Most of all, the support needed for children’s success is in a community environment where we are partners and not adversaries. This is a relationship grounded in covenant as opposed to one centered on  transactional contracts. We all commit and invest in something we dearly and deeply value.

I wanted to share this because we are an innovative educational project and some upcoming postings will share some of my experiences in this community of practice or learning organization.

The Heart of a Teacher

A colleague from Gonzaga sent me this video and fit the World Cafe conversations about learning, the best environment for learning to occur within, and the changing face of education in the 21st Century.

The video is Heart of a Teacher. I apologize for using a link and not the video upload, but I did not have the latter uploaded yet and wanted to get this out there.

I need to add this is another first; there are three postings today.

Eloquent Questions in Education

Since attending the Servant-Leadership conference at Marylhurst University in Oregon, I am thinking more about eloquent questions in education. Eloquent questions assume no obvious answers and grew out the work of Giambattista Vico, an 18th Century Italian philosopher. Eloquent questions were expanded on by Hans-Georg Gadamer, a 20th Century German philosopher. Without obvious or assumed answers, dialogue and community take on new and important roles in responding to eloquent questions. When asked eloquent questions, I have to be aware of, mindful about, and attentive to my thoughts and feelings and to those of others who are present in conversation.

Several things contributed to this rethinking. Firstly, Dr. Shann Ferch, a keynote presenter at the conference and author of Forgiveness and Power in the Age of Atrocity: Servant-Leadership as a Way of Life, spoke about eloquent questions. “Gadamer’s notion of the eloquent or elegant question forms a philosophical bridge into the kind of assured personhood that opens real dialogue, develops authenticity in self and others, and forwards a view of human relationships that helps us transcend our own hidden self- and other-annihilation” (Ferch, 2012, p. 29). Dialogue and community set aside the personal agendas that so often drive discussions. Setting aside agendas calls forth authenticity that helps reveal a safe space and path forward to share what is important and common within a community centred on eloquent questions.

Secondly, Gen Y Girl Kayla Cruz began following my blog, for which I am grateful. She triggered questions with postings touching on generational differences that impact society in general and education specifically. I was already asking, “What reasons are there to build 400 new schools over the next 10 years in the province of Alberta? What areas will these schools serve? What conversations yielded those numbers to Thomas Lukaszuk, the Minister of Education and the workers at Alberta Education? What costs will result from building these trophy-schools? What does that mean in terms of school closures? Was there a conversation about the need for school as a building?” Initially, I thought these questions might be strictly based on infrastructure, but, thanks to Kayla, I am increasingly aware of other questions based on generational differences. “What impact will a different understanding of personal and professional life for Gen Y adults have on teachers in the classroom (I use that word classroom guardedly, because what the classroom will look like or be is also an important question)? If, as Kayla pointed out, there is a blending of life expectations for Generation Y or the Millennial Generation, “what does that mean in terms of teacher preparation, teacher recruitment, teacher retention, teacher satisfaction, etc?”

I have no concrete evidence, but, as I talk to members of Gen Y, including our sons, I get the impression that work of any form, without meaning and a feeling of real input, is not in the cards. The questions here are, “What purpose does work serve? Do we work to live? Or do we live to work?” Kayla, in several blog entries, linked articles that provided insight. One that caught my attention was The Beginning of the End of the 9-to-5 Workday in a section called Work-Life Balance at Time.Com Moneyland.

It seems an education degree prepares young people for more possibilities than just being a teacher. What should this uncertainty suggest to the movers and shakers who think they can predict a need for 400 schools over the next decade? The above-noted article inferred going to school will not be going to school for everyone. What will school look like in the next ten years? What role will the increasing ubiquity of technology play? These are not simple questions to be answered with a mechanistic process that has been failing for some time. Eloquent questions ask us to not have pat answers, but to continue to ask each day, “What does this mean today?”

We drove back from Sedona to Phoenix yesterday. In spite of my terrible fear of heights, it was an enjoyable three days touring the Sedona and Grand Canyon areas, with the spectacular scenery and their Native American ruins. The visits to three ancient Arizona dwelling sites of Native American Indians were interesting and provided yet another source of rethinking the need for eloquent questions. During an explanation at one of the sites, I was struck by the uncertainty around the possible reasons that led to that village being deserted.

Retrospectively, we look back and speculate and pose eloquent questions, knowing and accepting we can not provide an answer. Looking forward, we are ready to ask eloquent questions “in order to gather greater understanding” (Ferch, p. 29). There is no certainty looking forward just as there is no certainty looking back. Eloquent questions do seem to fit an unfolding, emergent, increasingly complex and uncertain world.

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