There’s nothing sacred about spelling tests as a way to learn spelling...
…or flash cards to learn math facts, curriculum as a way to teach, testing as a way to collect data. There’s nothing sacred about most of what we do every day in education, and yet we, as a society, seem to hold tightly to these institutions as if they are.
When we consider how to do education better,
how to make it more equitable,
we often do so through the lens
of old constructs.
As if they are sacred.
As if they are worth preserving.
Six years ago I started a school, The Anastasis Academy, in Centennial, Colorado. I did so with one goal: to begin with what is truly sacred and create an educational experience that honors that which is sacred for students, teachers and parents.
So what is sacred in education?
This education is pouring into the incredible, creative, unique individuals that we call students. It seems rather obvious, and yet we rarely make decisions in education as if this is what we value.
When you create an education model around honoring humanity, you are really declaring a whole-child, whole-life, eight-dimension approach. The goal then becomes helping children learn how to be fully alive in every area of their lives. To do this children must first discover who they are and how who they are fits into a world that desperately needs their unique vantage point, passions, gifts, and contribution.
Great teachers seem to do this effortlessly. They make it look easy and natural. They seem to draw out the best in every part of the eight dimensions. True mentorship.
Where do these remarkable educators come from?
How do we replicate the magic?
The idea of mentoring teachers is daunting, at least for me. I often feel under-qualified to take on such a monumental task. After all, teachers are in the business of mentoring. How do you mentor those who have made it their life’s work?
As those who make a life out of pouring into others, teachers often give of themselves to the point of depletion. This isn’t something that is recognized as it is happening, it is something that creeps in until burnout looms on the horizon.
We all need those in our lives that help us reflect, and grow, and consider new perspectives and vantage points. We need those who encourage us in our own journey of the eight dimensions of life. Who push us to be fully alive.
Mentoring teachers then
isn’t about something that we “do,”
but rather in what we allow space for.
Space for rest.
Space for reflection.
Space to care for each other as whole people.
Mentoring teachers isn’t something to “do,” it is about making small decisions that make mentorship possible. Most schools require professional development for teachers where they are expected to “sit and get.” I’ve rarely seen this type of professional development do anything of use for those sitting in the audience.
The small decision I’ve made is that we won’t spend time on this type of professional development. Rather, we spend that time building empathy and camaraderie and reminding each other that we aren’t in this alone.
We get to know each other as whole, eight-dimensional people so that we can be vulnerable and take risks together. We recognize that we must explore who we are as whole people to help children discover who they are as whole-people. We remind each other that while our life’s work is of utmost importance, that we are bigger than our vocation.
Students are the direct benefit of this type of mentorship. In supporting each other as whole people, we support whole students. We rally among a common cause.
We honor that which is sacred in education.
* ** *** ** *
Kelly Tenkely is a true educational change-maker. She sees a world of possibility and promise in every student. She has been a teacher, technology integration specialist, educational consultant, writer and speaker. Imagining a new model of education that honors students as unique individuals, Kelly began Anastasis based on this model.
She received her B.A. in Teaching from Colorado Christian University. In recognition of her education blogging, she was named one of the 100 most influential education writers, winning an Edublog award. She is a Promethean Certified Trainer, a DEN Star, 5Sigma Conference Organizer, Curriculum/Instructional Designer, and the creator of the Learning Genome Project, through which she hopes to make the Anastasis model of education available to all children.
You may read more about Anastasis here. For further information, you may reach Kelly at: firstname.lastname@example.org
* ** *** ** *
A note from Wes Roberts, Founder/Master Mentor with Leadership Design Group: Several years ago, when first given a tour by Kelly of Anastasis, she asked me at the conclusion of the generous time she gave, “Do you have any questions?” In honest awe at what I saw and had experienced, I responded, “Do you allow 70+ year old people to begin their education processes all over again?”
I am not easily awed, but that day I was, sincerely. Teachers, students and parents all are flourishing beyond what they thought possible in this remarkable school.
If you are an educator, then make plans to come to the 5Sigma Conference that Anastasis hosts each year…for 2017—February 17-19. Please let Kelly know that you would like to be on that mailing list. And…I’ll see you there, as well.