Opal School closed in 2021. You can continue to access these resources for free at teachingpreschoolpartners.org/resource-library/.

Courageous and Collaborative Communities

Courageous and Collaborative Communities

Last week, I split my time between two groups.  The first half of the week, Opal School hosted a Study Tour for a school from Miami Beach.  On Wednesday, Susan and I went to Juneau, where we spent the remainder of the week working with another school staff.  These are radically different demographic contexts: Other than that they’re both on the water, I find it hard to generate much of a list of commonalities shared by Miami and Juneau.  Beyond that, the Florida school focuses on early childhood, serving infants and toddlers through grade one; the Alaskan one is a k-8.

And yet, they both turned to Opal School with some common intentions.

More than anything, both were hungry to learn more about how teachers can engage with children in playful inquiry.  They were eager to hear stories from that practice.  They wanted to be inspired and surprised by children’s voices that showed nuances of understanding that opened new doors.

And these adults wanted to be guided to playful inquiry through playful inquiry.

It’s something that we too often forget: that in order to cultivate the conditions for communities of children to be courageous and collaborative with each other, we need experience with that ourselves; that oftentimes the same conditions for learning where children thrive – wholehearted, creative, dialogic, aesthetic, participatory – are the optimal ones for us, too; that in order to engage with children in the production of new understandings, we need to practice that with each other.

In many ways, those are the impulses I hear in this collection of videos created by Ashoka Changemaker Schools, an international network Opal belongs to.

I wonder, as you listen to this mosaic of voices from a wide range of settings, what new opportunities become apparent?  How might watching these videos with others – colleagues, families, students, administrators, community members – spark valuable conversations that cut to the core of what we’re trying to do together?

Here are some of the places we’re hoping to engage with you in these conversations:

  • In the comments section below (and, if you’re a member, in the Forums)
  • At this week’s workshop.  We’ve still got a couple of spaces, so it’s not too late to sign up and join educators from across North America! If you can’t make it to this one, the rest of this year’s retreats at Opal School are posted here.
  • If you’ll be at #NCTE2017 next month, we hope you’ll attend our session. We’re on Friday, 11:00-12:15, with our friend Ellin Keene!
  • We’re looking forward to our upcoming work on the road with Clayton School District, Frog Hollow Neighbourhood House, and Central Okanagan Public Schools, as well as hosting Opal School Study Tours for Lincoln County, Burnaby, Maple Ridge, Richmond, Vancouver, Surrey, Langley, and Coquitlam School Districts and a group of Australian educators and administrators from varied settings.
October 23, 2017