This book is written in the context of the educational field, particularly early education. I want to suggest it’s reach is so much broader. For pedagogy, a theory of how any of us learn, and a statement of assumptions about context — well these matter to all of us. It’s the thing behind the thing that shapes how we encounter each other.
It’s a book about being better humans, together. It presupposes and advocates a shift from “teaching to” to “thinking with.” It highlights two grounding and guiding questions of significance that underlay so much of what any of us are up to in most every field of human endeavor. 1) What kind of people do we want to be? 2) What kind of world do we want to live in?
This book grows thoughtfulness, in part because it’s grounded in stories of young kids learning. And because it highlights the leadership, and I would say human-growing, that is culture making. We make who we are and how we are in the world by what we become with one another, starting anywhere.
From Ann and her coauthor Margie Carter, their reflections on “pedagogical leaders”…
hold the space for generativity
cultivates in self and community an appreciation for and aptitude with complexity
seeks to increase the diversity of perspectives that contribute to a conversation, understanding that many stories can be true at the same time
develops intellectual discipline in the community, the discipline that is necessary for collaborative study and intentional action
links theory and practice in continual conversation
tells the stories of the community — stories about children, stories about educators, stories about families.
Glad for any of us with the courage to name the story under the story.
As a young boy growing up in Edmonton, Alberta, I suppose it was episodes of Star Trek (the original series with William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy) that opened up some of my initial sense of wonder in the world, that there was so much more to be discovered. Star Trek and, a decade later, the original Star Wars movie. Those and, a couple of Grandmas who wanted to grow my imagination. All of that and, a bit of painful life experience that had me reaching for meaning. As far back as I can remember, something in me sought for what was not seen as much as what was seen. Something in me sought for alternative ways of doing things, not just the established norms. Something in me sought relationship to what was timeless, not just what needed to be squeezed into a todo list.
With that as backdrop, I recently wrote this poem below, stringing together some of the “what if” questions I carry now, in both my work and in my personal learning, as I’ve sought even thimbles full of the unbounded ethereal, that likely started when I was a boy
What If, What If?
What if, what if, this life could be lived as connection to the infinite?
What if, what if, the infinite were found in but a thimble of experience?
What if, what if, those thimbles of experience were available anywhere?
What if, what if, anywhere changed everywhere?
Life is but a dream, calling for our waking to the infinite of the every day.
You know how there are times in your life when you return to what seemed a previous chapter of old stuff, and find in that old chapter, a newness that feels powerfully poignant now? I’m in one of those with the above diagram. I’m in one of those times as I continue to seek a simplicity of framing and invitation for so much of what I do as a facilitator, meeting designer, consultant, and guide. I’m finding this powerful as orientation to invite depth in the groups I work with.
In the early 2000s Toke Moeller and I talked about these. We named some of what it takes to create good learning together. Since then, I’ve given much thought and practice to developing a wider view of inspired learning spaces. What I love about it is that it looks beyond conversational leadership. Often, from the lineage of The Art of Hosting, there is much focus on conversation as a modality. This is important. It is one of the ways that we humans connect with each other. It is a direct challenge to command and control systems that tend to offer more mandates and dictates, more marching orders than invitations to explore.
As important as the conversations are, and the methodologies that support this, I have always felt that there is more that we must attend too. What are the other ways that we find connection with each other? What are other modalities that help a group over time? What is important to help better weave different learning styles or personality types into the room?
For me it is important to name that I’m not looking for a bag of party tricks here. When I use any of the activities in this photo, I’m not looking for ice-breakers that are cute to start a meeting. I’m looking for other modalities that help the people in the room connect more with each other and connect more with the multiple layers of purpose that are present among them.
So, here’s to the framings that any of us offer that can simplify the purpose, yet hold much, much complexity in learning and practice.
Over the years, I’ve come to appreciate exponentially Toke’s commitment to peace, to simplicity, to offering good into the world, be that through doing or through being.
I also appreciate the way Toke talks about his mother and grandmother. I’ve had those people in my life also, that have oriented me to continuous learning, which remains some of the most important grounding that I’ve experienced.