I’m finding that one of the more dramatic shifts that takes place when learning communities come together is around purpose. I’m not just referring to the work of professional learning communities that are populated by educators. I’m also referring to the work of the learning communities that are populated by the students in our classrooms and the parents in our communities.
Things are changing.
Suddenly, it seems that more than a few people are realizing it’s not about “going to a workshop” or “taking a class” or “attending a meeting” to “get stuff.” Content isn’t king anymore.
The bigger work is about commiting to certain dispositions of practice in order to define, understand, and grow the potential of the learners within any community. It’s also about focusing a bit less on what we want others to do better or improve about themselves and a lot more on what we can do better ourselves. Our work is never done. Perfect doesn’t exist. There is no ceiling. There is only infinite possibility and new ways to grow and serve others.
A few months ago, parents in my home school district began coming together to discuss how we might begin learning from one another about what learning can look like, how we can facilitate it better in our homes, and how we can advocate for it best in our schools. My concern is that our group will be perceived as a crowd of helicopter parents by the teachers and administrators in our school district and as a place of refuge for folks who want to do little more than gossip, complain, and be….well….helicopter parents themselves.
Here’s the deal: I’m eager to be a part of a community of parents, kids, and educators focused on what learning can look like at home and in school. Anyone who knows me well will tell you that I tend to allow my kids to make their own choices, solve their own problems, and face the consequences of their own behavior. In the 12 years that our kids have been in school, we’ve stepped in to advocate for them respectfully four times. Each time, we did this only after requiring them to speak and act for themselves and only when their well-being and safety was in question. We let them try, we let them fail, and when they succeed, they know it’s because of what they did, not because of something we did. We’re lucky to be in the district we’re in, and there is much we love about it. There are also ways in which we feel we can contribute, but there isn’t space for us, it seems. And we wonder why that is. Turns out, we aren’t alone.
Having a little company in our pursuit of meaningful conversation around learning and parenting and what school does and could look like has given us all a lot more hope, I think. Hope that our informed voices might be heard. Not because we have something to complain about, but because we just may have something to contribute. Moving forward wisely will be an important next step. With any luck, we might find ourselves of service to our school community. With any luck, we’ll be perceived as something different than PTA but something friendlier than a lynch-mob.
I’m thinking that exploring the dispositions of practice and allowing them to guide our actions and inform our decisions can help us be more successful. I’m wondering how often parents, students, and teachers come together in this way, for this sort of purpose? I’m wondering how and where our group can begin connecting with those that do.