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FEATURED ESSAYS
liz bertsch
A Good Sentence
By LIZ BERTSCH
I didn’t like school as a child. Not only did I feel profoundly alone, I didn’t understand why we read what we read, studied what we studied, and why I knew that boys played football in the fall, baseball in spring, and why I knew nothing about the athletic calendar of girls. The only school project of significance to me was when my seventh grade science teacher demanded that we maintain a journal to explore our personal ideas about what we pursued in science that year. I remember nothing of the details of what I wrote about, but I remember writing often and engaging with my ideas on the page read more
hector j. vila
THE ECOLOGY OF TEACHING
The Prepared Mind
by HECTOR VILA
Socrates believed that the most important form of knowledge is about "how best to live." Socrates talks about "definitional knowledge"; that is, how we define words and concepts, diving deeply into what holds our definitions together, their lifeblood. His belief in wisdom and goodness is derived from human logic and natural skepticism—what we say we want to teach, the entry level, intellectually, to citizenry. read more
2018 Professional Development Opportunities • SCHOLARSHIP RATES NOW
Don't miss Community Works Institute's annual series of professional development events. Limited space exists for CWI's 2018 Summer EAST and WEST Institutes on Place Based Service-Learning. Join with educators from across the U.S. and around the world for a week of learning, exploration, and practical curriculum design. A perfect way for individual educators and teams to deepen their use of service-learning and sustainability, both in the classroom and program wide. These are best practice based events and appropriate for K-16 and community educators, and administrators. read more l scholarships
service learning
PROFESSIONAL and COMMUNITY LEARNING
Gathering For Purpose
By JOE BROOKS
The experiences of our colleagues in the classroom strongly suggest that we are not living in a world where scatterings of educators in different buildings with shared teaching values can easily survive intact on their own, not to mention thrive. Teachers need experiences that gather and share collective wisdom, evolving models of success. The professional experience that inspires or rekindles the personal must somehow be at the core of what we do. read more
strike
THE ECOLOGY OF TEACHING
Star Wars Civilization and Stone Age Emotions
by HECTOR VILA
What? We can’t afford to pay teachers, keep our schools running, let alone a state government? We can’t create good, viable schools in the U.S. in the 21st Century? We don’t have the will, tenacity, and funds to overhaul our aging infrastructure? (Iraq is running out of money, too, and will be challenged to keep its government afloat, let alone pay soldiers fighting ISIS. Gee, the invader and the invaded are starkly similar. Could it be that when we enter a country, we bring our problems with us?) read more
roeethyll lunn
Celebrating MLK Day: James Brown, Walt Whitman, and I
By ROEETHYLL LUNN
My mother and father were sharecroppers—which was considered fortunate for them at that time because they had ten children. They had two boys, one at the beginning and one at the end, and then eight girls sandwiched in between. My mother had me when she was forty years old. I was her seventh child, but I was first of her children who was allow to attend a public school. Black children before my age group had to walk or were driven on mule drawn wagons to a “one room, one teacher teach all,” school that was being held in their local churches.  Black people were not allowed to attend public schools nor ride public buses.  read more  
roeethyll lunn
Reverberations and Flashing Diamonds
By ROEETHYLL LUNN
In the wake of one school shooting after another, a veteran teacher ponders the importance of education itself. As a child growing up in a racially charged and often violent climate, she saw this play out first hand and has never taken it for granted. Her advice of finding and valuing the best of what we find around us in difficult times provides a crucial and valuable lesson. It also raises questions about the many students who are leaving our schools with no direction, positive purpose, or ability to see a better future ahead of them. read more
stuart grauer
LEARNING TO LOVE EDUCATION AGAIN
Making Connections Between the Qur’an and Our Values as Educators
By STUART GRAUER
I’m not Muslim, but I have been reading the Qur’an lately, in my role as a scholar and teacher, especially since there is so much reference to it in the news. As a humanities teacher and writer, I love how it is meant to be read in slow, measured rhythmic tones, like a meditation, and like much great poetic verse. I wish I could read it in Arabic, but alas. With Islam under hot scrutiny right now—Islamophobia—I can’t think of a better purpose for education: Education and understanding are the only sustainable ways out of fear. read more
stuart grauer
LEARNING TO LOVE EDUCATION AGAIN
Quality Pho
By STUART GRAUER
Back in the ‘90s we used film for all our photos and it took a lot of work to develop the film. It had to be done right and well. Near our school there was a photo shop that was owned by a Vietnamese fellow called Tam, and that was our go-to place. Tam developed our school photos with the greatest of care and, as a result, I grew in friendship with him. You might think that photo development and friendship would not be related well, but to me, when someone is great at what they do, it becomes friendship. To me, great workmanship means, “I care about you” and “You can depend upon me.” read more
barbra nightingale
Working Backwards: A Life in Teaching
By BARBRA NIGHTINGALE
I have always done everything backwards. It probably stems from a game I played as a child in Chicago. I came to teaching as a third career somewhat late (by the usual standards) in life. Having lost myself somewhere in the last months of high school, I chose not to go to college. I worked for a year, married (for all the wrong reasons), and a year later gave birth to a child (for an equal number of wrong reasons). At twenty-one, I found myself divorced, uneducated, unskilled, and with a one-year old daughter to support. read more
hector j. vila
THE ECOLOGY OF TEACHING
American Violence and Education
By HECTOR VILA
I can't make things out anymore. I don't know what we're doing. American culture is upside down and, as an educator, I have no idea what to do, what to say, how to find "the teachable moment." I'm lost. I suspect we may all be feeling lost. It seems as if we're operating in two distinctly different worlds, one is inside the classroom where we theorize, study, calculate, ponder, the other, outside the classroom, that world we dare only glance at from time-to-time, is brutal, relentless in its inhumane insistence that life is cheap read more
hector j. vila
THE ECOLOGY OF TEACHING
The Cultivation of Hatred: A Brief History of Violence in America
By HECTOR VILA
We have witnessed great acts of empathy and selflessness. We can be proud of incredible intellectual, technical, and scientific achievement. We can also point to our American image, still, as the land of opportunity. But aggression and violence cloud these accomplishments suggesting that our successes have exacted a great cost to human happiness, to life itself. The answer to our woes is here; it’s what we need to examine, all of us. read more
teaching
The Long-Held Dream of Teaching
By KARY SCHUMPERT
Fourteen years ago, I realized that I wanted to teach. It was a dream and goal that I had been battling my entire life. Yes, battling. I will get to the battle in a moment. I tend to make decisions in small, incremental steps and I was not sure that I wanted to give up my career working for a small environmental nonprofit. Caring for and working for the environment is an identity that I carry close to my heart and consider it a calling. read more
An Environmental Educator Looks Forward
By KARY SCHUMPERT
The power of teaching lies in the power of learning. For those of us who teach, whether as non-formal or formal educators, we are often caught up in learning standards, objectives, and outcomes, even while we are concerned about our students. It helps, at times, to go back to the moments in our learning lives (which we hope are continuing and living continuously) to remember what helped us as learners. It helps, at times, to go back to the moments in our learning lives to remember what helped us as learners. What awakened our brains? What ignited our passions? read more
hector j. vila
THE ECOLOGY OF TEACHING
Finding the Heart of Students, and the Soul of Education
By HECTOR VILA
We assume that our system is so complex that's it's nearly incomprehensible to the student; we now have systems, plural. In these systems and their mechanisms we essentially construct discipline, which fosters, primarily, dependency; it weakens the obsequious student who is blindly shepherded towards authority. This is an incredibly false construction caused by higher education's intimate relationship with the economic system; these systems mirror each other. read more
LEARNING TO LOVE EDUCATION AGAIN
Saving Daylight and the Psychology of Learning
By STUART GRAUER
If any reader knows a single teen who “springs forward” or springs at all when another hour is stolen from them, let me know. Because the overwhelming research shows that, as the National Sleep Foundation reports, not only in the United States but all over the developed world, “Two in three teens were found to be severely  deprived, losing two or more hours of sleep every night.” read more
OF PLACE AND EDUCATION
Educating for Sustainability: An Introduction
By DAVID SOBEL
Education for Sustainability.
 It’s a tall order. But without some reorientation of our current societal behaviors, the climate will get warmer, the oceans higher, the food supply less dependable, and the gap between rich and poor wider. You know that old saying about how hard it is to change the path of an aircraft carrier? Well, imagine that the aircraft carrier is as big as the earth. It will take a long time and lots of concerted effort on everyone’s part to change the path we’re on. Do we really have any choice? Of course not. read more
hector j. vila
THE ECOLOGY OF TEACHING
Helping Our Students Find Safe Spaces
By HECTOR VILA
Can you help me? means I want to be a better human being; it means I want a larger purpose for my life—but we've failed to provide the adequate—and messy—room for this inquiry into the self to take place. And even the student heading to Wall Street is unsure of her purpose. This "hollow excellence", the place that in bygone days was about finding yourself, no longer is—and finding oneself in this world, today, is harrowing. read more
LEARNING TO LOVE EDUCATION AGAIN
Connections and the Absence of Stuff
By STUART GRAUER
The first night in Havana, we walked down Las Ramblas, past people from toddlers to aged hanging out together, playing games along the side of the street, past the gritty pool hall and the corner bar with three dollar mojitos. We reached the drug store, a shop with glass cases running fore and aft down both sides. At first we weren’t sure it was really a drug store. There was an absence of “stuff” and an absence of colors beyond white and powder blue packaging. Two thin rows in the whole place, and a soda cooler in the corner. One brand. Or was it no brand? read more
education
Common Core Standards: What Has It Taught Us, What Can We Salvage?
By BIANCA HAWTHORNE
Being in a hurry to implement the standards, leaving many untied knots including the lack of national and international protocols for setting up standards, and omission of inclusion of important stakeholders such as more educators, especially those involved in special education afre but a few of the misteps facing Common Core. read more
hector j. vila
THE ECOLOGY OF TEACHING
Object Lessons: Life is Just a Bowl of Varies
By HECTOR VILA
I’ve navigated the teaching profession intuitively, always gravitating to what I sensed were voids in the system that, more often than not, compromised students. My rewards have not been monetary, nor have there been accolades showered on me—a special chair, a title, the such and such professor of. No. I’m nowhere near a think tank and the leisured life of, well, thinking and writing. None of this has happened. Mine has been a bumpy road—humbling in many respects. Some might even say I live on the boundaries of academe. read more
LEARNING TO LOVE EDUCATION AGAIN
The Real Story on the Economy of Getting Small
By STUART GRAUER
Small design schools have historically been presumed to be uneconomical. We now understand that small schools, defined by the Small Schools Coalition as schools with 399 students or fewer, are no more expensive than today’s large consolidated schools. In fact, research has shown that formulas for determining funding disguise tremendous non-cash costs associated closely with large schools; some of those costs are difficult to affix a price tag to, and some of them include terrible social costs. read more
THE ECOLOGY OF TEACHING
Reflecting with Students
By HECTOR VILA
She approaches the subject wondering about the importance of Hunter boots because she took our classroom conversation about adaptation into the world and felt she could explore it safely, test it—and me. She's exploring trust. The classroom doesn't work if you can't see it in the world, place it in the palms of a community. If you can't see it, you can't trust it—not completely. Her classroom needs to live; it has to be real, something offering transcendence—as it is for so many others, all the kids that walk with me. read more
LEARNING TO LOVE EDUCATION AGAIN
The Stranger Who Was Yourself
By STUART GRAUER
Congruence starts when we make intimate disclosures to ourselves. We risk being honest and being known. We confront the rules of rank and status, willing to let them go. Through this vulnerability, the façade of independence collapses and the space for humility opens up. In this space, we better sense how infinitely we are bound with those around us. We can at last make peace with how very interdependent we are, how reciprocal everything is. With others. Our boundaries become permeable and our curiosity about those around us becomes humble and unhinged from our agendas and our public image. read more

hector j. vila
THE ECOLOGY OF TEACHING
Education, Fear, and Arrivals From Unexpected Places
By HECTOR VILA
"I'm a teacher of writing," I say. That's what it's turned out to be. There's a freshness that arrives when you know what you are, who you are. My wife, Nina, chimes in: Why don't you ever say you're a professor? The culture is large and powerful, and always challenging notions of who you think you are. Students come to me from unexpected places; they come with assumptions that, over yet a short life, are security blankets, familiar expectations given to them in intimate moments—but not fully their own. They come to me not yet fully formed. Questioning students' presumptions is a high wire act. read more
hector j. vila
THE ECOLOGY OF TEACHING
More Than a Gesture: Toward a Pedagogy of Community
By HECTOR VILA
It's inescapable that when we speak about education we speak about pedagogy. And when we speak about pedagogy, we actually never speak about pedagogy at all—that is to say, never in meaningful and significant ways. Instead, the language around the method and practice of teaching is rife with utopian aspirations, anxiety and discontent. Thus is pedagogy's paradox. Or to state it another way: pedagogy is a form and in this form there are at least three postulates that create its meaning, and our confusion and uneasiness, even displeasure, with education writ large. read more
LEARNING TO LOVE EDUCATION AGAIN
School Behind the Mangroves: On Causing No Harm
By STUART GRAUER
We are heading out to a distant point where the surf breaks along a long, clean punta, and all the way along the shorelines look like impenetrably thick, green brush. Steering closer to shore, we eventually begin to notice occasional dark spots in the mangroves and, closer still, they appear as tiny, green, creek mouths, slight inlets big enough for a few dugout canoes. And now closer still, perhaps a small dock, maybe a few little ones doing flips off the ends of them, running and chasing. The Ngöbe kids of the Bahia Honda off Bocas del Toro on the northeastern corner of Panama are waiting for a ride to school. read more
Finding the Whole Child in Education Reform
By CHRISTOPHER NYE
Imagine with me a school where students spend so much time outside and doing projects in the community and in their school garden that it is as if the walls of the building do not exist. There is an ebb and flow, where community members with valuable real life experience to share frequently come into the school, and students, wanting to learn about the society and nature around them, can often be found out beyond the classroom. No one can miss that these young people are fully engaged, that they appreciate the opportunities and nurturing afforded them. A psychological climate of mutual support, what in Finnish schools is called “pedagogical love,” supports all these relationships. read more
OF PLACE AND EDUCATION
Taking the Classroom to the Forest
By RILEY HOPEMAN and DAVID SOBEL
As academic expectations in schools become more demanding, some educators have turned to the outdoors as a means of providing meaningful, relevant, and tangible experiences for their students. The Forest Kindergarten movement, which has taken hold in Europe over the past 30 years, takes a very different approach towards early childhood education. Their conviction is that this real world experience will provide the confidence, resilience and perseverance that are the foundation for increased motivation and improved academic performance. read more
hector j. vila
THE ECOLOGY OF TEACHING
Teaching What Matters: Technology and the School Experience
By HECTOR VILA
This curriculum can only be created by a meaningful K-16 collaboration that enables "education hubs" to emerge nation-wide: interdisciplinary centers of study focused on children, first and foremost, with appropriate teachers and mentors, counselors, and medical care up and down the system. Secondly, this new system privileges experiential learning: how to put into practice ideas and theories; how to test what we perceive; how to step away, reflect and describe what we're doing and how what we've accomplished may affect the future. read more
FEATURED ESSAY
The Aerial Classroom: Views from Above
By BELLE BOGGS
I worked recently with photographer Ken Abbott on a project called “Views From Above,” which teaches high school students in rural North Carolina, to observe their communities from a unique dual perspective: through interviews, photographic portraits, and landscapes completed in small towns and farms near their school; and also through aerial photographs taken with a balloon-and-camera rig the students put together. We have combined their work in a blog, as well as in presentations for the school and community. Following is an explanation by seniors Joshua Redwine and Hunter Powell, as well as sample aerial photography from the project. read more
hector j. vila
THE ECOLOGY OF TEACHING
Final: Lost in the Funhouse
By HECTOR VILA
Most times the heart is the student’s a teacher aims for—compassion, empathy, understanding and, most of all, full spectrum realization. And yet other times it’s my own that I’m reaching for trying to connect my heart to the student’s. But the simple act of teaching is challenged: In this world, one where light scatters, “The present state,” says Guy Debord in The Society of the Spectacle “in which social life is completely taken over by the accumulated products of the economy, entails a generalized shift from having to appearing: all the effective ‘having’ must now derive both its immediate prestige and its ultimate raison d’être from appearance.” read more
Community Leadership Lessons: A Few Reflections
By JOY CHERIAN
I feel my decades of service to the Indian American and Asian American communities could be worth sharing. During those years, I was fortunate to have opportunities to work with impressive individuals from all walks of life, whose activities exemplified leadership in action. You do not have to be a chef to know great cooking. Likewise, I do not have to be a leader to know when I see great examples of leadership. With this idea in mind, I submit the following reflections on my personal experiences working with those leaders and the lessons that they imparted to me. read more
hector j. vila
THE ECOLOGY OF TEACHING
Abandon
By HECTOR VILA
This one young woman sitting in my office is a Vietnam. She is tomorrow, not today. In her somehow are the ruins—what has given way since 1975 and re-surfaced in new formations in her sophisticated ways of examining my office, her world, the life she's had, even though she's so young, but 19. She seems older, traveled beyond her years. She dissolves into something more remote then now, past it; she points to something yet out of reach for us, something she'll see and live. read more
LEARNING TO LOVE EDUCATION AGAIN
Democratic Learning: Pete Seeger, A Real Teacher
By STUART GRAUER
With arguably fewer traditional folksingers in the country these days, I wonder if many of our students know what a folksinger’s true role is. As a folksinger, Seeger was motivated by concerns for social justice, cross-cultural communication, and international peace, and so he performed songs from diverse sources to any “folks” who’d listen, in order to advance these concerns. I’d like to think a great school has some folkteachers, willing to risk it all for some lessons that really reach students. read more
Getting Beyond Slogans: Training the School Leader for Creative Social Change
By J.D. JONES and MARGARET SORRELL TRUEMAN
All the students were running to get in line, except one girl. I asked her why she was not getting in line also?  She asked “you don’t see what I see?” Then she pointed out that there was a dew drop on the blade of grass and I responded that I did see it.  Then she again said “you don’t see what I see….If you hold this blade of grass just right you can see a rainbow inside the dew drop.” I looked and sure enough, I saw the rainbow. Why did I not see that rainbow? Could it be that the older we get we lose that ability to see what is right in front of us? read more
The Science of Citizenship: What’s at Stake When Schools Skimp on Science?
By BELLE BOGGS
The uncertain student had spent little of his elementary school time outside, had not taken field trips to any science museums. He had not gardened or designed experiments about sunlight and plant growth or even diagrammed a leaf. He had never looked at a plant cell under a microscope. His frame of reference for the world, and his relationship to it, was severely limited, but teachers and school administrators had worried instead about how well he could read and multiply. read more
LEARNING TO LOVE EDUCATION AGAIN
Exile and Restitution: Thoughts on the Riddle of Childscape
By STUART GRAUER
My earliest memories are in nature. I remember filling my pockets with eye-catching stones—stones for gathering and arranging, throwing and hunting. I remember running renegade through the narrow, leaf covered paths. I read that fireflies are hard to find these days, but not back then. On summer nights, we illuminated glass jars with fireflies we caught from around the low hanging trees and set them free the next night. A moon of my own in a jar. Back then, we were free to roam, to take, to lie, to shapeshift and to run to our escape as far as our legs would take us and never be caught. read more
love
A Love Letter to Environmental Educators, My Profession, and My Colleagues
By KARY SCHUMPERT
Dear Environmental Educators, I just spent a weekend with some of you at an environmental education conference. After a career change and nine years in this profession, I remain inspired and excited by your example. I also think of the environmental education and educators who first awakened my passion while I studied in college. You go by many names: naturalist, interpreter, park ranger, classroom teacher, program manager, visitor use specialist, recreational leader, after school program advisor, environmental educator. You do many things. read more
Encountering Self and Other in Community-Based Education
By HENRY GOLDSCHMIDT
Place-based and community-based educators are united in our efforts to break down the barriers between classrooms and communities—to ground education in experiential, student-centered encounters with the social and natural world. We work to enrich, and perhaps transform, our students’ understandings of history, society, literature, the arts, and the physical sciences by helping them engage with what Michael Umphrey calls simply “the world outside the window” On this I think we all agree. But what, exactly, should we encourage our students to look for outside the classroom window? read more
hector j. vila
THE ECOLOGY OF TEACHING
Writing as a Transformative Experience
By HECTOR VILA
Writing is transformative. That's been my experience. Writers write to inquire, to dig deep into an unknown. Writers like to feel as if the experience of writing changes them. A young writer, however, hesitates because transformations like this are like shedding a skin, a layer, something personal changing into something else and the world suddenly looks different. "For starters," writes a student,, "a person does not merely place herself with the group of disposable people. We, the people as a whole, are the ones that force others to become indistinguishable." read more
LEARNING TO LOVE EDUCATION AGAIN
Teaching Karibuni: Five Stories of School Hopping in Tanzania
By STUART GRAUER
Emmanuel, Weruweru’s physics teacher, is discussing what is important in a school, and he is using the exact word I have heard tribes use on two other continents: unity. “‘Unity’ is a word people only think to use when it has been at grave risk,” I express to him. “Or else when they are gathered together eating fry bread. That is the only exception.” He smiles as his students dig in to lunch. His students seem to live their lives holding hands. They are the most physical kids we have ever seen. read more
sarah anderson
The Essence of Social Learning
BY SARAH ANDERSON
Middle school students are social animals. Adolescence is a time when we develop a keen sense of self-awareness and an intense interest in other people. Since most 13 and 14-year olds are more passionate about each other than anything else, and since their brains are really geared towards social development, this is the basis of my classroom. Before all else, we practice how to treat each other well and how to share ourselves honestly and openly. read more
hector j. vila
THE ECOLOGY OF TEACHING
Hope on a Tightrope: The Miller Street School
By HECTOR J. VILA
“It’s what I must do,” Shakirah Miller said solemnly, turning towards the Miller Street School, in Newark’s South Ward, just behind us, a gray-brown, government building with cages on the windows and dark green, steel doors. “Someone has to be her. Who else is going to do this?” Shakirah, the principal of this kindergarten through eighth grade oasis, crossed hectic Frelinghuysen Avenue to have some words with the blue uniformed sanitation workers that hang out in front of their facility’s doors, puff on cigarettes and give desirous looks to young mothers walking their kids to the Miller Street School. read more
service learning
LEARNING TO LOVE EDUCATION AGAIN
Gaokao Cowboy: How National Examinations Impact Student Development
By STUART GRAUER
The exams we use to evaluate our school children have the power to shape not only a nation’s future, but the character and development of the children who take them. Who sets this agenda? This essay deliberates the changing landscapes of national testing in the United States and China , and the conflicts inherent when student learning, patterns of engagement, evaluation and placement are focused fundamentally on high stakes, standardized exams. Is it conceivable that nearly one billion of the world’s students are educationally headed down and unintended track? read more
hannah
The Price of an Italian Grilled Cheese
By HANNAH BRISTOL
Growing up outside Washington, D.C., Hannah Bristol has long been fascinated by the power of people to promote political change. As a student of Environmental Policy at Middlebury College, she is working to educate and build momentum around climate justice issues with Sunday Night Group and other environmental organizations on campus. She has also organized with the Obama campaign as a Field Organizer and with SustainUS, a youth non-profit working to advance sustainable development. read more
service learning
Perspective-Taking as a Tool for Building Democratic Societies
By JOSE CALDERON
The way we connect our classrooms to our communities can truly affect whether our teaching and learning practices advance a more diverse, socially just, and democratic culture. Providing time for students to learn about the professor's life and for the professor to conversely learn about the lives of students is essential to building students' capacity for perspective-taking. To succeed in fostering this capacity, faculty need to create environments where students are comfortable questioning the perspectives of others. read more
svea
TRANSLATING EXPERIENCE
Breaking Routine
By SVEA ANDERSON
After two days of a guest teacher, my students had forgotten all the classroom rules and how to sit still for two minutes. My plan of telling the tales of my wondrous time at the conference was swapped with revisiting what a fourth grader looks like, and trying to figure out what they had done academically and what still needed to be completed to move on with the new weeks’ curriculum. Alas. It is the plight of the classroom teacher. Typically it is easier to go to school sick as a dog that write sub plans and deal with the aftermath of your absence. read more
David Sobel
OF PLACE AND EDUCATION
From High Winterages to Haute Cuisine in the Blink of an Eye
By DAVID SOBEL
Swooping down the far side toward Slievecarran, we stopped at an abandoned cottage. We shuffled through the broken glass and wall board, imagined a family of 8 or 10 packed into two small bedrooms, huddled around the meager heat from a peat fire, tired after the senseless work of constructing a famine road. This living historical record of recent history and the raft of ancient artifacts of portal tombs, towers, ringforts, abbeys and fire rings is another unique Burren feature. It’s as if all of Irish history was boiled down and concentrated into an historical gumbo-- so near at hand and yet reaching so far back into history. read more
Iyaunna Towery
Vesting Learners, Facilitating Voice
By IYAUNNA TOWERY-AJIDUAH, M.Ed.
I remember the night before the first day of the Institute I could not sleep. I had gotten this anxious feeling, the feeling that one might get when they knew something was about to happen. I really did not know exactly what to expect. Honestly, what could really happen in just a week's time? Well, I can now say that a lot can happen: inspiration; intensity; purpose; and transformation. read more
stuart grauer
LEARNING TO LOVE EDUCATION AGAIN
Small Schools: The Myths, Reality, and Potential of Small Schools
By STUART GRAUER and CHRISTINA RYAN
Like many of our cities, the large school model had evolved very gradually and was not the result of a set plan, and so no one could state a single place or point in time where a threshold had been crossed and the old ways were not working. It had been more like watching a beautiful tree grow; we could discern nothing but the seasons until it came to pass that our tree was not at all what it had been, buckling the sidewalk and over-shadowing the once-sunny garden, spreading limbs that could hardy support themselves, or couldn’t. But, of course, we never see a tree growing. read more
hector j. vila
THE ECOLOGY OF TEACHING
Learning By Hand
By HECTOR J. VILA, PhD
The academic's hands have always intrigued me because they pose a problem: these soft, subtle hands, meant for turning pages, not digging ditches, have turned civilizations on their heads, named things, classified others, and in fact define what is evolving and how; they label progress; they determine right and wrong; they convict. Pardon. And they wash their hands of things they don't want to see. Such soft hands have so much authority. This troubles me. Can delicate hands teach? read more
pittsburgh
FEATURED REFLECTION
Education through Restoration: Creating Meaningful Service-Learning
Projects in the Parks

By MARIJKE HECHT
When she mentioned that her kids need to perform community service and asked if there was anything they could do in the parks my answer was a resounding "Yes!“ but with a twist. I said we had lots of opportunities for youth service projects in the parks, but that we aim to have our programs go beyond service to service-learning. She was clutching her coffee (not a morning person, perhaps) and looked at me with a quizzical what's the difference? expression. read more
svea
TRANSLATING EXPERIENCE
Reflections from the Beginning
By SVEA ANDERSON
I have indeed come a long way from the innocent newbie who got off the plane in India and never looked back. I have traveled the educational highway and have stopped along the way to refuel, to add more air to my tires, to become more confident in the direction I am heading. Those early days of teaching, when it was new and exciting and I felt that could do anything, aren’t really that far away or even out of reach. Teachers need to remember what it is that they love about the profession and embrace it. read more
David Sobel
OF PLACE AND EDUCATION
Beyond Ecophobia: Reclaiming the Heart in Nature Education
By DAVID SOBEL
What contributes to the development of environmental values in adults. What happened in the childhoods of environmentalists, some researchers have asked, to make them grow up with strong ecological values? Louise Chawla of Kentucky State University found an intriguing pattern. Most environmentalists attributed their commitment to a combination of two sources, "many hours spent outdoors in a keenly remembered wild or semi-wild place in childhood or adolescence, and an adult who taught respect for nature." read more
essay

Toward a More Humanistic World: The Role of Educational Institutions
By STEFANOS GIALAMASAmerican Community School of Athens
Developing a more humanistic world requires that the great educational institutions of the future will not be more of the same as defined today. They will be the ones preparing young people to serve humanity. Effective schools will be those that are proactive. If they can teach and inspire students to develop the wisdom to transform static academic knowledge into social, ethical, economic, environmental intelligence then the sustainability of quality of life can be greatly improved for people across the globe. read more>

hector j. vila
THE ECOLOGY OF TEACHING
On Being: Something Grand and Strong
By HECTOR J. VILA
I always claimed to be misunderstood, not because I'm comparing myself to Pythagoras or Socrates, say, or even Emerson himself—that would be too daunting; rather, my misunderstanding with the world comes about because I refuse to settle and be inhabited by the conditions I find myself in. Instead, I have always chosen to abandon these, to leave these constructions behind, as just that, constructions, and abandon myself to my instincts, my sense of what Rosseau says is the truth I find in my eyes. read more
stuart grauer
LEARNING TO LOVE EDUCATION AGAIN
Meet Me on the Corner of the Green and Digital
By STUART R. GRAUER
With due appreciation for the amazing technology connecting our global village, hardly a thought is given to the isolation of all those digitally enhanced brains walking around our schools and neighborhoods. In schools across the country, textbooks are being replaced by digital textbooks, and the next iteration will surely deliver apps that students can use to click right in to their books. Again, this is amazing. And probably those big schoolbook crates the kids all carted to school every day throughout the first decade of the new millennium are not going to be missed.  But what will be missed? read more
bill flores
Service-Learning and Institutional Leadership: The View of a President
By WILLIAM V. FLORES
I learned my core values from my parents and from my aunt, all of whom shaped and influenced my sense of purpose and leadership. Each prodded me in their own way to move beyond my comfort zone to explore new things. Each provided personal examples of moral leadership that ultimately shaped my development. Like many of my generation, I was the first in my family to attend college. When I reflect on why I continued on to higher education, I attribute it specifically to my parents. The turning point for me was in third grade. read more
hector j. vila
THE ECOLOGY OF TEACHING
The Ecology of Teaching: Breaking Out of the Factory Model
By HECTOR J. VILA

Of course, citizens have to be productive and engage the world creatively, but this is not the first criteria. There are other requirements. In order for education to be productive—produce productive individuals, it must preserve the health and welfare of teachers and, in so doing, it must sustain students in the process. For this to happen, teachers must know themselves well, must have a full understanding of their students, and, just as significant, teachers must have a complete understanding of the context in which the teaching and learning happens. read more
stuart grauer
LEARNING TO LOVE EDUCATION AGAIN
Single Handing It: Finding Our Way In An Age Of Fear
By STUART GRAUER, Ed.D.
I meet many parents who show low tolerance for a tough journey, for an open-ended journey, or for watching their children finding their own way. Millennial parents believe it is their responsibility to keep their children headed on a straight and narrow tunnel, or as I call it, "the race to the cubicle." A growing number of Ivy League admissions officers complain that the intellectually sensitive and supposed "best and brightest" (i.e., highest scoring) among our children have become masters of compliance and tunnel vision. read more
service
LETTER FROM NORMAL
Seeds of Change
By JAMI SPENCER
I invited a local, organic family farmer to speak to us about his sustainable practices. His experience, food values, success and photo tour of the farm left those in the room filled with a profound respect. Students wrote in reflective journal assignments that they were excited to plant their first seeds in our upcoming garden project. The farmer's visit was a motivational illustration of potential answers to the food problems that frustrated my low-income community college students, but for which they previously saw no alternative solution. read more
hector j. vila
THE ECOLOGY OF TEACHING
The Emotional Life of Teachers
By HECTOR VILA
The work of a teacher should rejuvenate all of us that are teachers. Teaching requires that one's entire being be present. Roland Barthes, for instance, in his "Writers, Intellectuals, Teachers," tells us that "...language is always a matter of force, to speak is to exercise a will for power; in the realm of speech there is no innocence, no safety." The teacher, upon walking into the classroom, is well aware of this—no safety, no innocence. It is definitely a will for power. How do we interpret power in the classroom? What is the location of power in this quite sensual, moving and intensely frightening sphere called the classroom? read more
Stuart Grauer
LEARNING TO LOVE EDUCATION AGAIN
Succotash and Standardized Teaching
By STUART GRAUER, Ed.D.
Like a freight train taking on John Henry, The No Child Left Behind Act and national teaching standards set by The Race to the Top rolled over local educational practices through the first decade of the new millennium.  It would no doubt stun our founding fathers that, eventually, in the new millennium, states that adopted the national standards would win points in the competition for a share of the billions of dollars to be awarded to the most compliant among them. read more
Cynthia Hughes
The Soul of a Teacher
By CYNTHIA HUGHES
It's our job to help kids learn to read and to write, to learn math and spelling conventions, to give them ways to discover their thinking and to find the best home for their unique talents and abilities. Somewhere in all of that lies the soul—the part of each of us that can't be measured with a rubric, scale or test score. The unique experience of each person's interactions with each other, each learning opportunity, and each perception. We simply cannot know that by testing it. read more
Stuart Grauer
LEARNING TO LOVE EDUCATION AGAIN
Small Versus Large Schools: The Truth About Equity, Cost, and
Diversity of Programming

By STUART R. GRAUER, Ed.D.
Why do we keep the focus on building gigantic schools when we now have over 30 years of promising small schools data? Here is one big reason the data are ignored: cultural expectations about high school are deeply embedded. Powerful and often compelling myths about schooling tend to govern our collective assumptions about normalcy, and these myths have silently, steadfastly advanced the move to larger, more consolidated schools. read more
David Sobel
OF PLACE AND EDUCATION
Burning Brush: Playing with Fire
By DAVID SOBEL
The glad animal play of childhood, the complete immersive quality, is one of the elixirs of life and also one of the indispensable proteins that build a sturdy adult soul. Middle childhood offers a window of opportunity to have these experiences, and if a child misses that opportunity, the quality of immersion is less accessible later in life. When, as adults, we sink into a novel or get lost in creative work or tussle with new ideas or improvise on the job, we're using the skills that were roughed in during childhood play. read more
service
LETTER FROM NORMAL
The Art of Knowing and How We Get There
In a course where service projects will be a highlight and a requirement, it is vital that I work on a sense of community from day one. To feel part of a community, we must first know each other by name, and second know something about one another. I went into this semester with high hopes for the service project, anticipating it as the pivotal moment of community development. But I learned that sometimes, it is the simplest of teaching strategies, those “duh” ideas, that mean the most. read more
paula cohen
Moving Beyond the Walls in Los Angeles
By PAULA COHEN
At CWI's Summer WEST, I met like minded educators who could see beyond the limitations, who thought outside the box, who were willing to ask big questions and delve deep into the answers. It felt like coming home. When we talk about resiliency in young people, feeling like a part of something important and valuable is a crucial piece. Our school has been going through many of the tumultuous transitions that all public schools are going through. read more
service
LETTER FROM NORMAL
Crossroads in the Heartland
By JAMI SPENCER
Sometimes, old school is better school. Hands-on, apprenticeship-style learning beats filling in bubbles any day. Passing down wisdom about medicinal herbs and edible weeds will sustain longer than instructions on how to use that new smart phone that is sure to be outdated in a few months. I want to share the importance of sustainability with my students by providing them with place-based service-learning projects that speak for themselves. read more
service
LEARNING TO LOVE EDUCATION AGAIN
Chief Tayuk, Guy the Bear Hunter, and Me  How Elder Wisdom is
Rebalancing School

By STUART GRAUER, Ed.D.
Elders here had somehow engaged the youth in a forgotten perigee to prompt not just a rediscovery of knowledge, but a renewal of ritual people have always relied on to survive in the sometimes forbidding and incomprehensible world of adolescence. read more
David Sobel
OF PLACE AND EDUCATION
Swimming Upstream Against the Current: Changing the School
Improvement Paradigm

By DAVID SOBEL
This story captures one of those ineffable aspects of what makes a good teacher and school leader, and what leads to constructive school change. The leader genuinely respects each child and knows that each parent and family can contribute to enhancing the learning environment of the school. The school leader reaches out to find community partners, connects parents with social services, creates opportunities for parents and teachers to learn together. read more
Marita Pradoni
The Precarious Teen Years and the Honor of Becoming a Blessing
By MARITA PRANDONI
Being invited into my daughter's middle school was less invasive than actively getting into her mix. But the mornings I was there, she would keenly avoid being seen with me, and would rush past the math classroom on her way to her next class. Without imposing on her, I got to see firsthand how teachers of teens invest hope and compassion in their students, with complete understanding of their tumultuous state. read more

efs image
EDUCATING FOR SUSTAINABILITY
Reflections on the What, Why and How of Education for Sustainability
By KIM RAKOW BERNIER
When I work with educators I often start with a visioning exercise. I ask them to respond to the statement, "What do you think the world will look like in 50 years?" The responses to this question are overwhelmingly negative. Before allowing the audience to wallow for too long in the depressing nature of the dystopia they've just imagined, I ask a slightly different question. read more
Christian McEwen
OF PLACE AND EDUCATION
Childtime
By CHRISTIAN McEWEN
Adults tend to think of nature in terms of "the great outdoors." They crave distant, glittering vistas, snow-capped mountains, broad, far-reaching valleys. Children are less particular. A hedge, a ditch, a tiny knoll, will give them all the countryside they need. Audre Lorde spoke in passionate terms about a pocket park in Harlem, close to where she lived as a young girl, "That place, the green, the trees, and the water, formed my forest of Arden." It was the only green place she ever saw. read more
David Sobel
OF PLACE AND EDUCATION
Everyone Ought to Have a Ditch
By DAVID SOBEL
I spend a lot of time these days talking with teachers, foundation directors, environmental educators, and evaluators about how to most effectively shape environmental stewardship behavior. The $64,000 question is what's the most effective way to educate children who will grow up to behave in environmentally responsible ways? What kinds of learning, or what kinds of experience will most likely shape young adults who want to protect the environment? read more
fort
OF PLACE AND EDUCATION
Forts, Land Trusts and Conservation Behavior
By CHRISTINA OLIVA and DAVID SOBEL
She, like many others, spent countless hours working on, playing in and defending her fort-home. Fort-building was an important part of childhood for many of us growing up in the 50's, 60's and 70's if we had access to safe play areas and parents who encouraged independent play in the natural world. It is a form of childhood play that extends back to our hunting and gathering heritage. read more
sister
A Sisterhood of Solace and Compassion: Community Building
In and Out of the Classroom

By TERRI GOMEZ, SANDRA POSEY, ESTELA BALLON, CHRISTINA CHAVEZ
We left a meeting with a University administrator discouraged. Now standing in the elevator, the doors opened a few floors down and two women on the janitorial crew walked in. Two Latinas, tousled hair pulled up and away from their faces, stood at the front of the elevator, wearing aprons, with mops and trash bags in hand. We stood there behind them with briefcases, laptops and blazers. In the short ride to the ground floor, we contemplated the social space that existed between us. read more
David Sobel
OF PLACE AND EDUCATION
Return of the Redwings
By DAVID SOBEL
We rambled around campus. It was early March, the snows were slowly receding and, lo and behold, down there on the road from the freshman dorms to the soccer fields there was a small pond, surrounded by a marshy meadow, with a border of eight to ten foot shrubs around it. I'd passed it a hundred times and never given it a second glance. read more
Eric Hartman
SERVICE AND SUSTAINABILITY
Becoming More Human, Building a Better World
By ERIC HARTMAN
What is it all about? Why engage in service-learning and place-based education, if not to improve ourselves and to improve the world around us? This question "how do individuals fit within and contribute to broader community?" has been driving liberal education, community education, and philosophy for quite literally hundreds of years. read more
cemetery
OF PLACE AND EDUCATION
Local Diversity
By DAVID SOBEL
Whether it's third grade or middle school science, or teacher education at the graduate level, the tone of the pedagogy is set on the first day of school. The cultural norms are launched, the core values exposed. read more




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