Who are you?- This was the guiding question the GCE staff started our first PD session with. We then moved on to discuss project-based learning, inquiry-based learning, habits of mind, the ideal GCE graduate, and what seemed like a thousand other things a team of educators need to consider when building a school from the ground up. As one colleague put it, “We only have our foot—or perhaps only our big toe—in the door.” Being part of creating a new program can feel unsettling and even daunting at times. I was thankful that throughout our session we took the time to reflect.
This type of introspection is exciting and challenging. It invites deeper inquiry than many of the usual, traditional questions asked in professional development (i.e. how do we hold kids accountable? what should we teach? how should we teach it?). Instead of thinking solely about pedagogy, curriculum, and classroom management strategies, I was more often thinking about how each of us teach not only what we know, but more importantly, who we are. This kind of reflection took me back to Parker Palmer’s book, The Courage to Teach—a text I have not read since my senior year in college when I was a student teacher. The book gave me hope and peace of mind though it is not an “easy” read. It too raises questions about education that often go unasked in schools today: how does the self that teaches inform (deform?) the way we relate to students? To our subject area? To our colleagues? To GCE partners? To the world around us?
I look forward to working towards these questions in the weeks ahead. It’s tough but rewarding work! As Palmer writes, “The work required to ‘know thyself’ is neither selfish nor narcissistic. Whatever self-knowledge we attain as teachers will serve our students and our scholarship as well.”