Change from Within

More than twenty-five years ago, I made the decision to become a classroom teacher. It was not, admittedly, my first career choice. I believed I was destined to be a Saturday Night Live cast member or maybe an international photojournalist. But, as it turns out, I really loved teaching.

I entered my first year in the classroom certain that I would be surrounded by like-minded education enthusiasts. They would be progressive, down-to-earth, awake and alive, my sisters- and brothers-in-arms. I was hired at an enormous, comprehensive, inner-city high school where the students numbered in the thousands and the faculty in the hundreds. I remember all too well our first “professional development” day. I even wore a skirt, in anticipation of something fancy and important.

In short, I was devastated, my teaching spirit crushed. The professional development content was pre-recorded, pre-ordained, tedious and technical. My colleagues sat around reading the newspaper, grading papers, napping even (this was long before smart phones). I fully expected spit wads to fly. “Let me get this straight,” I remember thinking to myself. “I am being held responsible for affecting the hearts and minds of young people, and this is what I am being offered in return?” I soon realized this was to be the norm – that teachers as a whole were malnourished, dehydrated, depleted, parched. Even the coffee was awful.

I have never lost sight of the original design of public education in the U.S., born of the Industrial Revolution and imported directly from Prussia, where the emperor desired obedient workers and soldiers who would not question his authority. But we know better (perhaps we always have). We know what return on investment looks like. We also know that in order to impact a system, we must first impact the individuals who make up that system.

Here at the Academy for the Love of Learning, professional development is known as “Teacher Renewal,” because president and founder Aaron Stern believes teachers are, in fact, a renewable resource, and that learning is a practice. Through the use of experience, reflection, meaning making, and application (not to mention great coffee), educators are re-introduced to themselves as learners, to their own love of learning. Isn’t this, after all, precisely the kind of sustenance we want for our students? I know it’s what I wanted for mine.

The word is out that the Academy is offering this very different, transformative approach. More and more schools in and around Santa Fe are asking what we are up to, and how they can get involved. Because human beings who are awakened and alive and renewed as learners themselves are drawn naturally toward collaboration, curiosity, assumption of best intentions, and clear communication. And because this, in concert with the already existing expertise, wisdom, and creativity of a team of educators, is at the heart of any positive, high-performing school.

For more information on Teacher Renewal at the Academy for the Love of Learning, please call (505) 995-1860.