As part of my professional growth plan and a commitment to myself as an educator, learner, and leader I continue to work towards evolving my practice through opportunities for learning. Here is my latest foray.
Faculty Book Club: Collegial Connection
While neither an innovative or original concept among education faculties (I had already initiated two other similar collegial opportunities), a professional book club serves to be a collaborative and supportive venue that effectively engages large numbers of staff to come together. And while ‘small talk’ in the staff room serves a purpose, what really gets me engaged, focused, and recommitted to my craft are the deeper pedagogical conversations around learning and teaching that occur all to infrequently outside of administration-mandated meeting times. Those hidden gems of shared insight and wisdom that come forth during an unplanned connection while waiting for the water to boil, standing in line for the washroom (yes that does happen in our staff room), reheating lunch in the microwave, and/or while loading/unloading the dishwasher are preciously rare. Enter the book club.
Our staff has been working towards embracing and implementing indigenous ways of knowing, learning, and teaching (as our government nudges educators towards the indigenization of curriculum) in our classrooms. To this end, I have challenged my colleagues to “expand the discussion to include our practice as educators and how we could continue to be in service to all of our students. We might even include a discussion around how we can use something like the First People’s Principles of Learning to guide our work with our students.” Big talk, eh?
Where to Start?
With such a heady and overwhelming arc to tackle, wrestle with, and reflect upon, I proposed to the group three starting questions to help guide our discussion and focus. To model an approach that most educators are familiar with (and use regularly in their teaching) we adopted the K-W-L strategy to help guide us collectively through Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian. Written for middle and high school students, Diary is easy to read, very layered, and focuses on the duality of two world that indigenous people must navigate. The K-W-L questions posed:
- What are TWO things that you ALREADY KNEW about indigenous/at-risk/vulnerable learners (and their families) before reading the book? (Knew)
- What are THREE things that you WANTED TO KNOW about indigenous/at-risk/vulnerable learners (and their families) before reading the book? (Wondered)
- What are THREE things that you LEARNED ABOUT indigenous/at-risk/vulnerable learners (and their families) after reading the book? (Learned)
We also included a caveat that our colleagues should “not feel obligated to have specific answers [although it would be helpful for personal context].” But rather the questions will serve “to help us hold a greater consciousness or awareness as we read the book.” But in the end the discussions will be what they will be and come to their own fruition. And that’s very exciting.
It’s off the ground. I’m really excited that our first ever staff book club is underway. The response was very impressive and fourteen faculty members eagerly stepped forward to participate.
We will follow and share this journey to witness where it takes our collective focus, energies, and actions in future posts.