Sunday, January 30, 2011

Our choice-- Acquiescence or courage

Take Couragephoto © 2009 Paul Simpson | more info (via: Wylio)
Flashback to 1999: A teacher in a professional development session I was facilitating came up to me at break time. He was excited at the prospect of creating and implementing some performance assessments for his students. We had been looking at performance assessments in a time when proficiencies were new to Ohio. His comment has not left me and never will: "I was a good teacher; I did lots of projects with my students. Proficiency teaching has withered my soul."

Flash forward to January 2011: A teacher in a community I am leading shares how she lost her creativity; she is in a district that prohibits projects for high school students in "regular" classes and allows 1 or 2 per semester for honors students.

And this tab open in my browser for days and weeks now--- from the Radical Learner that eloquently describes these tensions that tear at educators hearts--

These words are more than worth repeating.

I learned about undivided and divided lives in Parker Palmer’s profound and beautiful book, The Courage to Teach. Here is what he wrote:

Many of us know from personal experience how it feels to live a divided life. Inwardly we experience an imperative for our lives, but outwardly we respond to quite another… there are extremes of dividedness that become intolerable…

The institutions we inhabit, Palmer explains, can make it very difficult to live an undivided life because those institutions make claims on us that are at “odds with our hearts”:

That tension [between who we are and what our organization asks us to do] can … become pathological when the heart becomes a wholly owned subsidiary of the organization, when we internalize organizational logic and allow it to overwhelm the logic of our own lives.
And then he compares some teachers to Rosa Parks:
they teach each day in ways that honor their deepest values rather than in ways that conform to the institutional norm.
And so I'm thinking here we have two choices--
We can acquiece
We can have courage and teach in ways that honor our values

Or as Sheryl exhorts
We can be powerful
We can be pitiful

What if we engaged in a collective reading of "The Courage to Teach" in communities of like minded people with similar passions and values? And what if we become the change we want to see? And what if others see our courage and from it draw their own? It won't be easy; likely there will be reprocussions in some cases. Yet isn't it far more difficult to continue dishonoring the values we hold dear?