Connecting and Reconnecting, I

For me, the past week was a time of connecting and reconnecting on so many levels.  Last Tuesday, of course, there was the visit with my cousins, whom I hadn’t seen in so long, and their three Dalmatians, whom I’d only seen in pictures.  Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday were all about reconnecting with professional colleagues at the American Classical League Institute, and about building  connections between one set of friends and another.  Saturday, the day of our session about “Stepping Joyfully Beyond the Textbook,” revolved around connecting colleagues with ideas.  Sunday and Monday were travel days, but they were filled with connections as well.

There’s so much to say about the ACL Institute and those connections that I still need time to process all of it.  So this post is about the connections and reconnections after the Institute was over.

When I was planning my travels, I realized that I’d be able to visit my childhood home in Knoxville, TN, and reconnect with some people there.  I have a set of ex-step-relatives (think about that for a minute!) who are very dear to me, but with whom I’d lost touch when they became ex step-relatives.  I also have a set of former students who moved to Knoxville in order to start a very successful web-design and hosting company.  We’d all made tentative plans to see each other sometime on Sunday evening or Monday morning, but we hadn’t nailed down all the details too far in advance.

As it turns out, that, too, was an unexpected and welcome gift.  It was a lot easier to see Sean and Liz on Sunday night; we ended up spending hours catching up, talking about everything from their favorite and least favorite teachers to the folly of college as credential factory to the importance of finding your passion and building something meaningful around it.  I’m not sure how many of those conversations I had with them ten years ago, in the teacher-to-student role, but it was amazing – and very affirming – to have them last weekend.  And after their monetary success, it was also great to hear from them that real success is about following your passion, not just making the money.

Then, on Monday morning, came breakfast with the “ex-steps.”  We, too, talked about everything under the sun, from problems with education to following your passions to connecting learners’ passions with the “stuff” they need to learn.  After breakfast, I had time to drive around my old hometown for a bit, to visit and lay flowers on family graves.  Then came lunch and the long, but beautiful drive home through the mountains, with the gift of time to reflect on it all, to begin to see even more of the connections and reconnections that had been forming.  The Star Trek captains and related themes from Friday are connected somehow, too – and not just because my “ex-steps” and I used to watch The Next Generation together when we all were much younger and the show was new.  As I drove past one amazing mountain after another, one connecting thread began to emerge: somehow, on this trip, I was recovering things I thought I’d lost, and they were actually better than ever.

I’m still pondering that thread, and how it connects with the themes of false and true we explored last week.  As Debbie said Friday on Google+,

False vs real …oh yes. Politicians came to mind immediately.are they truly voting on our behalf or is it their own agenda that they serve?
Teachers blazing new trails in education… Are they new trails aimed at meeting the intention of personalized education or is it making the appearance of such while still standing in the realm of the factory model. Very good questions.
To truly make change we have to shake up the system to see things from a clear perspective. Those who are aware of the contradictions must point them out so others can also start seeing things objectively and make conscious, knowledgable choices about how they contribute to the education of our youth.
And those who are the creative thinkers, finding new ways to mentor, empower, and educate must share their ideas with others.

Exciting times!

And Brendan pondered,
One take on Star Trek is that there’s one captain per series or ship, in a military command hierarchy. What does it look like when many people are captains of their own learning, lives, and stories?

This leads to a Who’s In Charge or Who Gets to Decide question. It also leads to an opportunity for people to negotiate different ways of doing things than simply following orders or acting out the scripts of tradition.

The dramatic contexts encountered by Star Trek captains gives them justification and autonomy to make decisions beyond ‘just following orders’ and ‘just following tradition.’ The principle in many cases here is Villains Act, Heroes React —http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/VillainsActHeroesReact

Without the villain driving the plot forward by challenging the hero, there would be few compelling episodes. Sometimes this push is provided by neutral or friendly antagonists rather than full-fledged villains. But the resulting plot-driving conflict motivates a break from the mundane world and a call to adventure.

How this applies to real life is something to explore. Part of the role of a teacher or mentor is to create challenges for the (other) Protagonists in the story. In some cases the situation itself presents the challenge. But it’s meaningful challenge that’s often missing from the factory model school. A key question there is whether the challenge is motivated by a meaningful narrative context for the protagonist in question.

Meaningful challenge, a strong narrative, teacher as protagonist among protagonists … all connected, I think, to the theme of embodied role play I explored in our ACL session, and, in turn, to this project which my friend Emily just discovered and told me about.  Creating and sharing stories together!  It’s as old as humanity, as new as talking about your favorite show or YouTube video with a group of friends this morning.  And yet, for all its power, it’s conspicuously absent from the teaching and learning side of factory-model schools.  How will we all work to bring it back in?

 

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Published in: on July 2, 2013 at 2:15 pm  Leave a Comment  

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