The Outreach section of our school strategic plan has over-arching vision statement language: We have a rich tradition, and a vibrant present, that we will share with our school community, our region, and the broader progressive education movement. It continues...We will establish partnerships with educators to deepen our understanding of progressive education and best practices in the teaching of children.
When we were discussing our strategic goals three years ago, it perhaps wasn't at the absolute forefront of everyone's thinking that the director would so enthusiastically embrace the outreach concept by jetting off to talk with Myanmar teachers in the middle of December. As you might imagine, the staff have given me many reminders that the bitter Minnesota cold has arrived just as I desert them and head for warmer climes on the other side of the globe. Hey, I reply to them, I'm simply in strict adherence to the strategic plan and modeling that Responsible Risking-Taking habit we are always talking to the children about!
The opportunity for me to make this long-reach connection with other educators began with an innocuous email from Gary Wagenbach, a retired Carleton professor. In the summer of 2015 Gary hosted three of the teachers from Lumbini Academy school in Yangon. Since 2009, Gary has forged an enduring relationship and cultural exchange with the Myanmar educators. Their interest in inquiry-centered learning practices led him to contact me, and organize a tour of our school. During the course of their visit we had terrific conversations about the challenges and opportunities of pursuing innovative and inquired-based methods of education in each of our different education systems.
I was therefore very interested when Gary invited me to join him in Yangon this winter to present on some progressive education topics to the Lumbini faculty. After much logistical planning, I'm ready head out and share on a variety of topics that include: math, education reform, authentic assessment; projects and themes. I will arrive in Yangon prepared with a laptop full of power points, handouts, photos and videos. Most of all though, I'm excited for the exchange of ideas.
I believe that we educators think most deeply and reflectively about our pedagogy when challenged, or invited, to share it with an audience beyond our immediate community. This was a key understanding that informed the design of our strategic plan outreach component. This fall, we have been quite busy in our pursuit of this outreach goal. Last month's Imagine! Conference was a huge success. Our day was full of shares, questions, dialogue and discussions with a diverse group of over 100 educators. Last week, I spent half a day talking to a large group of student teachers about progressive education up at Bemidji State University. Earlier this week, a team of professors from Augsburg College education department toured our school and chatted to teachers with a view of utilizing Prairie Creek as a site for practicum and practice experience for student teachers.
These connections are in addition to our ongoing (and wonderful!) connections with educators at our local colleges and with our authorizer, Northfield Public Schools. As a public, progressive school that has now worked it's mission for over thirty years, we do have much to share and offer to other educators. Still, when we do reach out, we always get more than we give. Developing partners with other places keeps us fresh, challenges our biases, assumptions and ideas, and honors our own commitment to be lifelong learners.
I'm so excited to learn from the Myanmar teachers and administrators!