September 16, 2009
We're well into the semester now. The meetings are piling up, with plenty of work to go around. As I think about this work, most of it collaborative, complicated, and long-term, I'm interested to think about ways people work with each other in tough projects. One of things I've appreciated so much about my work with the NNER (since 1995 or so), is that we are always working toward something, but working toward it in a particular way. NNER leadership programs always emphasized mixed groups using a simultaneous educational renewal strategy. One way of thinking about this is addressing the preparation of teachers with three constitutuencies: teacher education, arts and sciences, and K-12. More recently, some of us have come to see that the community is a key, fourth partner. Right now, much of my current work is around P-16 issues in a statewide context. That means pulling together participants from elementary, secondary, and postsecondary settings, usually within a disciplinary context like writing or math, sometimes something broad like reading. We're working on ways to improve the hard jump kids have moving from high school to college. Some people can't believe we even try it! Yet, I think about the simultaneous renewal strategy. We have good examples of the way it works, and people well-experienced in the implementation. Through these examples, and my own owrk, I see the strategy as one of the most effective and practical ways to practice democracy in school settings. In this context, I like to quote Terry Tempest Williams, author of The Open Space of Democracy. She writes that in a democracy, people work at solving their problems by talking to one another. To address P-16 issues, it's mostly about finding ways to talk with one another. Schooling's structural barriers make talking with one another harder than it sounds. I'd be interested in learning about examples from others, non-schooling examples, too. Thanks!