How do we help our public schools to become a catalyst in helping to a build stronger community, while also supporting them to allow students to struggle with issues such as sustainability? I think it happens one teacher at a time…one by one…Wahed wara Wahed.
Are we talking the same language here?
As the Base HQ team in charge of making sure the couple of thousand Local Nationals (Iraqi citizens) who entered and left our base (LSA Anaconda) did so in a manner in which we could hope to identify and track them, we issued badges to them in exchange for their identifications. This was no problem at the start of the day, as the men were rested and on their best behavior as they wanted to be hired to do work. Fast forward ten hours of 120 degree heat, and the same couple of thousand men had earned their pay, and wanted to get home asap. Our need to follow our process, and theirs to get home immediately were at odds, until one day MSGT Arroyo and one of the locals had a communication breakthrough….our “One at a time” was their “Wahed wara Wahed (one by one). This became the mantra, and a fun verbal game at the end of each day. When the locals understood that we really needed them to form a single file line and would not expect less, they also learned that they all could get off the base and back home sooner by doing so.
“Two out of three One out of ??? Ain’t Bad”
Meat Loaf said that Two out of Three Aint Bad…my analogy might be somewhere south of that in how far we can take it, but even the contrasts help to illustrate the point. Luckily, we (supporters of hands-on, authentic, place-based education) do not hold the power over teachers that a GI had over the local Iraqi…no guns, barbed wire, searches, etc. Instead of demanding that teachers get in line, we are asking them to step out of the line. As opposed to conformity, we are wanting for each to “un-conform” to the norms of isolated teaching within a school isolated from community and the rich learning experiences contianed therein. The key to having schools (which are nothing more than the sum of the people, and their feelings, who are related in some way to the physical structure) become more connected to their community and place is one teacher at a time. Administrators, peers, parents, students and community members can encourage and support teachers to weave their lessons in to Place, form partnerships with community, and allow for students to serve same while they learn required content. These same allies can also talk with school and district leaders in order to garner support, which is crucial to teachers’ willingness and ability to step outside of the classroom. I have found that when teachers engage in PBE, they seem to realize a great deal of job satisfaction as they partner with peers, and other adults in the community.
While entire school or district adoption of PBE would be great, if the individual staff are not on board, it is not going to fly. Top down just does not work with this type of teaching and learning. Supporters of PBE need to help teachers – one by one (Wahed wara Wahed) to feel supported enough to give it a try.