Embracing the Future

#fuse14 was the most inspirational event I experienced this year.  What made it so?  Being surrounded by educators, students, administrators and leaders who embrace the messiness, uncertainty and joy of deep learning, was galvanizing.  It upped my game and underscored for me that everything happens in relationship, the importance of finding and connecting with your tribe and that the design of the ‘container’ matters - big time.

I would like to share a brief sketch of just one of the many wonderful people I met at #fuse14, Paul Kim, as well as the broader impact the #fuse14 peeps have made on the IFL’s work.

A 20 year educator, Paul is the Upper School Studies Department Chair and Youth Philanthropy Program Director at Colorado Academy. Paul was part of our design team as we worked the design thinking process on the group’s central question “How might we  reimagine and redesign the role of teacher?”.  We worked the design thinking process and it worked us :) During our design challenge, we talked briefly about Paul’s innovative work in Denver and I connected with him after #fuse14, so I could learn more about his teaching philosophy and dig deeper into his process.  

I had assumed that Paul had been leading this kind of work for the duration of his 20 year career.  I was surprised to learn that he transformed his practice just 3 years ago.  As Paul shared me with his process of reflecting on his career, and mindfully deciding to transform his teaching practice from traditional lecture based to hands-on, inquiry based learning, I was struck by how he leveraged his strengths as a researcher and observer of History to make a thoughtful, courageous choice about his work.  Click on these links to see just a sample of Paul’s work where he adapted Sugata Mitra’s work to design a 5 week unit around Self-Organized Learning (responses to 8 questions you can’t Google) and a sample of project rubrics.

Change is uncomfortable, VERY uncomfortable.  As adults, the inertia of the status quo governs our daily habits.  But I believe if, like Paul, we ground ourselves in where we have been, to make mindful choices about where we want to go, we stand on firmer terrain.  Transitioning from a full-time employee in a large organization to founder of a small non-profit organization calls on my demons on a daily basis.  It is much easier to default to what I ‘know’ than to walk an uncertain path - stumble and fall.  There comes a point though where the fork in the road cannot be ignored and the very real possibility of failure in doing something new, is less scary than the thought of doing the same thing, with predetermined outcome, for the next 10, 15, 20 years.  Paul paused at that fork and made a choice to go far outside of his comfort zone. The IFL exists because of inspirational educators like Paul, like Amanda, like Bo, like Ellen, like Leonard; educators who lead their classrooms and projects every day walking the path of the learner.  They raise the bar of what’s possible - usually quietly and without much fanfare.  They bring their whole selves to work in a system where it less and less encouraged to do so.  I believe the education system, writ large, stands at a fork in the road.  It is my deepest hope that we turn away from the holy grail of the standardized test score to a widespread understanding of the need to support educators and to tap into what we have known for decades about the process of learning and of human development. 

#fuse14 underscored for me the unlimited potential of unleashing this educator talent and has helped shape the IFL mission - we exist to support these educators in the mastery of their craft.  To provide scaffolding, resources, connections and support. To help bring respect, deep appreciation and joy to a profession that has been maligned for too long. We serve teachers like Paul and dedicate ourselves to not only being a resource, but to shining a light on the complexity, joy and heartfelt nature of great teaching practice.  When Rudolph Steiner opened the first Waldorf School in Stuttgart in 1919, he spoke of the importance of “power of thought, depth of feeling and strength of will” as educational outcomes. Steiner’s words strike me as a succinct summation of the core capacities of an educator.  Let’s redesign a system where these capacities are nurtured and developed - for teachers and students alike.