Saturday, September 26, 2009

Peace and Tranquility

I have a couple of launching platforms today, so we'll see where they lead.

In a facebook chat with a former student I was recalling an experience I had while working on my Masters in Education at the University of Minnesota.  I was working as a Teaching Assistant for a writing intensive course in the Kinesiology department and walking from the campus to the professor's office, which was across a busy street at the edge of campus.  As I waited for the light to change a limo slid by and in the back, visible so I guess a window may have been open or the windows weren't the usual heavy tint, sat a little guy in the garb of a buddhist monk who looked for all the world like the Dalai Lama.  He waved at me.  I waved back, somewhat bemused, and the light changed and I continued on my way.  Turns out the Dalai Lama was in fact in two for some kind of conference and that was exactly with whom I had crossed paths.

Now, I don't in any way shape or form aspire to be a celebrity chaser.  I have no interest in the latest news of the personal lives of the movers and shakers of our world, popular or meaningful.  And yet, that story is one that I am fairly quick to tell and it leaves me with something palpable in the way of my awareness of my own striving for peace and tranquility.  It's a real journey and there are those people in our lives, personal or distant, who help us to capture that sense of our own trajectory that leans toward meaningful introspection.  Something about that moment makes me feel better able to affirm something within myself that values a way of life that I don't often manage to capture.

On another front, I had the opportunity to read a friends application for the doctoral program at the U this eventing.  His personal statement was wrapped up in his experiences as an educator wherein he struggled with the dichotomy between the authentic and the reproduced.  This is a guy that I have had a lot of conversations about in regard to how education seems to systemically constrain itself to reproduction rather than authentic creation of knowledge.  In any event, his writings led me to muse on my own journey through education....and so, non-existent reader, here are some of my own musings around my journey.

When I was first in college I lived with a couple of guys who, like me, figured that the world was our apple (chestnut, oyster, whatever) and I remember a fair amount of time spent conjencturing on what it would be like if we started our own school.  We were pretty serious about it and had drawings for the layout of the school and plans for our startup program.  Of course, we had no idea about what we really wanted to accomplish, other than to reproduce the things about school that we liked while minimizing the things we didn't enjoy.  Fast forward past a career running a small family business and a twenty year process of acquiring an undergraduate degree (I'm a very strange kind of academic) and in the summer of 2000 I started the post-back program at the University of Minnesota.  The program provides training for initial licensure as a teacher while positioning the participants to complete their Masters in Education as a terminal experience of the program.  In the fall of 2001 I started teaching for the Roseville Area School district, which I did until the Fall of 2007, when I became a Staff Development Coordinator for that same school district.

I am not the kind of person who deconstructs the context within which I find myself.  I am a builder.  I work to find the best things in my context, maximize them, and to at least some degree I often find myself sliding into whatever power vacuum exists and taking on leadership roles that align with the goals of the guiding paradigm of that context.  I am not a revolutionary.  Maybe I'm a really good bureaucrat. And yet, little by little, and particularly since I have left the classroom and found myself looking into classrooms from the outside, I am struck by the inexorable reproduction of education and the inability of the system to allow it's elements to really engage in practices that are responsive to and engaging for students.

We know what we should be doing but we consistently allow a host of external factors to prevent us from the good work that leads to student learning.

More on this later.  Time to pause and reflect.

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