Make An Inquiry: Curation Attempt #2

Mia Zamora & Risk-taking

In my last post, I discussed Julie Johnson’s contributions to the TTT conversation on July 8.  Another very significant contribution was Mia Zamora’s suggestion that spirituality plays a role in our efforts to teach as co-learners.  Though Mia published her piece “Taking A Leap of Faith” before CLMOOC started, it seems relevant to include in my curation.

Mia cites bell hooks’ idea of teaching as self-actualization, an idea that has resonated with me since I encountered it in MOOC MOOC Critical Pedagogy earlier this year.  Mia writes,

…it isn’t just that students should be empowered to show up as full selves, but that teachers must as well, in order to model, but also to show the kind of care for the work that only comes when we make ourselves at least somewhat vulnerable.

She also writes:

Institutional change that matters must generate first from the heart of the learning communities we design.

This is a helpful reminder that educators do have power to make change if we are willing to take risks.

I’m also reminded of two recent Google Hangouts, one where I was a participant and another that I watched, where participants made the case for taking a long view of our teaching.  In a TTT session about the Charleston Syllabus and BlackLivesMatter that I was lucky enough to be invited to, Alabama teacher Al Elliott made this point; specifically, he noted that our current system of entrenched institutional racism has been built over centuries, so we can’t reasonably expect to dismantle it in a few years.  In the Connected Learning hangout yesterday, Simon Ensor also noted that we need to take a long-term view if we are make meaningful change in learning spaces.

This is a very powerful idea, and paradoxically, it makes me feel a bit more motivated to make change in the short term.  That is to say, it becomes easier to take the kinds of risks that Mia argues for if we take the long view; if Room 248 is not a paragon of democratic discourse by Fall 2015, at least it will be a better place to be than it was in Spring 2015, because I will take some risks and invite my students to share more power with me.  And our room will be better in Spring 2016, and so on.  Somehow, not needing to be perfect in August makes me feel more emboldened to risk.

Kevin Hodgson & Colleagues

Kevin Hodgson has taken up the Make An Inquiry idea with enthusiasm, and for this I am grateful, as his efforts have helped me maintain my motivation.  Kevin and two colleagues, Jamilla Jones & Rick Taggerty, published a piece called “Nurturing A Culture of Teacher Inquiry” at Middleweb.  The article describes their efforts to promote teacher inquiry in a partnership between the Western Massachussetts Writing Project (WMWP) and the STEM Middle Academy in Springfield, MA.  The article describes some of the structure that the WMWP facilitators provided for the STEM Academy teachers, including drop-in coaching sessions and detailed checklist of steps.  I was especially intrigued by this excerpt:

A survey of STEM Academy teachers conducted in the days following our inquiry project sharing indicated that many of the teachers found the inquiry process valuable, but time-consuming. A few expressed that taking on practice-related research was too much to ask for from burdened classroom teachers.

The authors argue that inquiry is still worth doing, and of course I agree; but this points out to me that we need to be aware of possible resistance from our colleagues, and as a result we need to be very good salespeople for inquiry.  After all, if teachers received support in inquiry and still felt that it was too time-consuming, what will happen with teachers who aren’t receiving that kind of support?

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