How We Do the Work Matters: Turning Beliefs Into Action

How We Do the Work Matters: Turning Beliefs Into Action

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-6684-7270-5.ch004
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Abstract

How we spend our valuable professional learning time together says much about what we value. When designing agendas for intentional learning communities (ILCs), centering our core beliefs creates transformative learning experiences. Being intentional about what we believe builds learning communities that center beliefs in their work. The Freirean concept of praxis reminds us that convening is not enough: community members must intentionally shape their environment to “reflect upon their reality and so transform it through further action and critical reflection.” This chapter will outline how the authors continue to evolve their practice and turn beliefs into action in their Rowland Foundation ILCs. Their transparent meeting agendas, which explicitly connect purpose and practice, have helped strengthen metacognition and reflection in the ILC work. ILC meetings predicated on practice—with time built in to debrief along the way—have helped them reflect on how they do the work and develop their skills as a learning community.
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Naming Our Teachers, Mentors, And Co-Learners

This work grows from deep roots, and we’d like to share gratitude and appreciation for some of the people and organizations that have taught and nurtured us as practitioners and collaborators. At the risk of resembling the “ad nauseum acknowledgers” that Ross Gay has described (2023, 73), we want to identify some of the important contributions of our many teachers, mentors, and co-learners.

Our work is grounded in School Reform Initiative (SRI) Protocols and many opportunities to learn with and from educators at the SRI’s Fall and Winter Meetings and regional gatherings. We are forever grateful to Gene Thompson Grove, Frances Hensley, Daniel Baron, Patricia Norman, Kari Thierer, Kevin Fahey, Beth Graham, and so many others for providing models, asking questions, and offering paradigm-shifting insights. Winter and Fall meetings also provided the opportunity to work alongside and learn from co-facilitators like Deirdre-Sharkey Williams, Kelly Brown, and Barbara Mullen.

Gene Thompson Grove’s 2015 course Designing Adult Learning has contributed to our understanding of professional learning design, agenda development, and deeply responsive facilitation. Both the structure of and the content in the agendas we use here emerged in large part from Gene’s examples.

We owe a debt of gratitude to our colleagues and friends at the Rowland Foundation, the Tarrant Institute for Innovative Education at the University of Vermont, and Great Schools Partnership. Ongoing participation in Courage and Renewal Cohorts, based on the work of Parker Palmer and facilitated by WholeHeart, Inc., continues to bring us new learning. Each of these organizations provided space for us to develop and refine our work in a community of practice (Wenger, 2010).

We are deeply grateful for the numerous teachers, students, administrators, support staff, school board members, and community members that we had the honor of working with in Champlain Valley Union High School, Montpelier Public Schools, South Burlington School District, and Two Rivers Supervisory Union. We are incredibly fortunate to have worked for years with friends and colleagues who ceaselessly refine their practice, generously share their work, and remain solidly dedicated to the democratic mission of public school.

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