Monday, January 04, 2010

Add this to joy and passion --

“We need to include “poignance” as an essential analytical and expressive skill.”

Gardner Campbell

This is a revised version of a post I created for the PLP Ohio Consortium. Strangely, I’m more comfortable with it here in my own space; perhaps because of its subject and how important I think it is to all learning experiences.

Although the focus of Gardner’s post is university level learning, I’m wondering if it doesn’t readily apply to teacher learning and learning in k12 classrooms. His post is beautifully written; far more articulate that I can be. Be it the writing, the ideas--- they touched a spot deep in the core of me. For it seems to me, given poignance, passion, and joy, learning in our current schools would look and sound so very different.

He writes:

“What do our students see? That learning is largely a matter of being overruled, of memorizing the lesson that beginners don’t know enough to ask intelligent questions (when in fact some of the best questions come from beginners). And that teaching is an exercise in providing answers and furnishing conclusions, not in guiding inquiries or (heaven forefend) asking real questions.”

As he described current learning, I was taken back to an online course, CCKO8, in which I was a novice participant and faced with the professor’s comment that novices irritated him. It was not a comfortable feeling and at times I did my best to learn as much as I could under his radar.

But more important, I thought back to my classrooms, and then to my current work with PLP and spent some serious time reflecting and hoping that no learner in my classroom, no learner in the communities that I’ve been privileged to have a role, have ever in any way experienced diminished learning, felt unwelcome or inadequate because of similar attitudes and words; only wanting every learner to know the joy of asking questions and learning together.

The definition of poignance that Gardner applied:

“OED’s last senses in definition 2a: “tenderly sorrowful, bitter-sweet.”

And his suggestion:

“In the context of education, especially as one gains more sophisticated skills of analysis and expression, it seems to me vitally important that we maintain a sense of humility and shared tenderness in the midst of our uncertain journeys.”

I’d not considered previously—

Yet I’m wondering if this is one critical element of what may be missing in so many teacher learning experiences, of what may be missing as so many of us seek to change learning in schools, of what may be lacking in individual classrooms.

Doesn’t looking at learning through a lens of poignance help guide us on our journey? How might that lens/consideration change what we do, what we say, how we say it? Might learning be more as John Steinbeck described in Captured Fireflies?

In her classroom our speculations ranged the world
She aroused us to book waving discussions.
Every morning we came to her carrying new truths, new facts,
New ideas cupped and sheltered in our hands like captured fireflies.
When she went away a sadness did not go out.

Poignant, joyful, passioned-- won't possibilities abound?

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