This morning I sat in the ballroom of The Sagamore listening to Giselle Martin-Kniep give the keynote of the 2008 NYS Teacher Center Spring Retreat. Giselle demonstrated her understanding of how people learn by explaining that keynotes are not an effective instructional tool, but that she knows that keynotes are meant to inspire those in attendance. She wanted her keynote to be provocative.
Her Dispositions of Practice show her commitment to teachers. She craves the practice of teachers working together to create vision, to share ideas, to harness power and to change the world.
But the biggest take-away for me only reinforced what I have been thinking about lately: relationships make or break everything.
Before Giselle spoke, we heard from Johanna Duncan-Poitier from NYS Ed. Department, and from Maria Neira, Vice President of NYSUT. Talk about a political, and positional, morning. We’re doing this over here, but NYSUT is not happy. We’re doing this over here, but State Ed. is not happy. Then we heard from Giselle who takes the level of respect up about 1,000 notches. She talks about partnerships and learning. She talks about sustaining educational expertise. Her vision: “Schools, one day, will be places of learning.”
One of my hats, that of Webster Teacher Center Co-Director, pushes me to make people in our school community realize that they can rely on each other. It makes me sad to think of teachers in one building doing something well that in another building they struggle with on a daily basis. How can I break down the barriers? What tools do I have in my toolbox to inspire them to remember what is important. In the end, it is all about the students. How can I support the teachers to feel that they can do their job?
I leave you with a quote that Giselle shared from Peter Block: “All learning is social. It is with our peers that we will ultimately find our voice and change our world. It is in community that our lives are transformed. Small groups change the world.” There is hope. There is collective wisdom and energy. We need to find it. We need to spread it. We need to believe it is possible.