Posted by Dana Bennis on Oct 21, 2014 - 11:05 AM
IDEA's Learning Breakthrough Series came together in Puerto Rico in September for Learning Session B. We were fifty educators, organizers, and community leaders across seven teams from Mississippi, Oregon, Vermont, New York City, Minnesota, New England, and Puerto Rico, plus National Fellows who function as LBS Advisors, IDEA Staff, and facilitators. This was the second of four gatherings of the LBS, following on the heels of the first of the three Action Periods.
The LBS, as decribed in prior posts about Session A and the first Action Period, is a deep-dive research and action process designed to generate knowledge and learning around a focus question, which for this LBS is:
What connections and approaches to practice, policy, public narrative, and strategy support the meaningful and sustained engagement of all young people and communities in education, while honoring the wisdom and differences of varying local contexts?
Our challenge over the four days of Session B: to share team progress and challenges, support teams in creating a new plan for the next action period, begin work towards a shared analysis across teams, and ground our work in the culture, history, and reality of the Puerto Rican, or Boricua, nation.
Our time in Puerto Rico was structured around group learning experiences and conversations alongside team-focused time to reflect and build out local plans of action. Inspired by feedback from Session A and the suggestion by Boricua Team co-Senior Fellow Josué McGrath Rosario, the driver sessions -- time to focus on how change happens in the four drivers of education practice, policy, public narrative, and strategy -- were constructed as opportunities to learn about and engage with ongoing projects and leaders in Puerto Rico. This gave everyone the chance to dive into actual successes and challenges in Puerto Rico, and, in the case of the practice driver, the opportunity to see two powerful schools in action: Diego Vazquez Elementary School and Nuestra Escuela.
The session included many powerful moments of shared learning and support, and the rising up of a prominent theme: Love. While not a common word to see in the public conversation about education, we had the opportunity at the two schools to see what deep caring, belief in, and love for students looks like and the impact it has on young people. Love was also a thread that wove through our conversations and Team Presentations. Ms. Sheila Warren of Portland may have said it the best, that even when we face conflict and people who challenge us, we need to "love 'em up!"
What follows is a visual recap of Session B. You can also check out full documentation of the session for background info, complete notes, pictures, and more. Also, don't miss these three great articles written about Session B by participants:
Thursday, September 18
Josué McGrath Rosario, Initiatives Coordinator of Nuestra Escuela, welcomes educators and organizers from across the U.S. and Puerto Rico for the Learning Breakthrough Series.
La Alianza para Educación Alternativa (the Alliance for Alternative Education) shared its learning about supporting young people as powerful students and citizens.
“Inclusive communities create a fundamental infrastructure for development and education,” was one of the messages Dr. Nelson Colón, President of the Puerto Rico Community Foundation, shared at the opening of the Learning Breakthrough Series.
Friday, September 19
“I felt something authentic at Diego Vázquez and Nuestra Escuela, not talking about love, it is love.” - Ofir Germanic captured the sense of many LBS participants after visiting two schools in Caguas, Puerto Rico.
“We don't do this to harvest food, we do this to harvest farmers,” explains Josué McGrath about Nuestra Escuela’s approach to its agricultural and entrepreneurship programs.
LBS participants are trying to make sense of a larger shared story about the relationship of education and community while also trying to understand what is distinctly different about their histories, contexts, stories, and strategies.
Saturday, September 20
Effecting wide-scale educational change requires solutionary collaboration that weaves throughout local and national divides. It takes coordination, partnership, support, challenge, truth, and genuine commitment to place and justice.
“What are you not willing to compromise? Hold onto that, and be willing to let other stuff go. The stronger case you can make that a change in education works, the more you can show how the dominant system doesn’t work for all.” - José Luis Díaz (Artwork by Kike Estrada)
“Some people call it public narrative or story. We think of it as saying our truth. But you must remember: It can’t just be words. You have to believe with all your soul.” - Justo Méndez and Ana Yris Guzmán, President and Executive Director of Nuestra Escuela.
Sunday, September 21
As human beings supposed to love each other, we have to take care of others for any reason. For me, the strategy is, how do we get together in a way to reach the critical mass to change the world. - Luis Otero
If it's really about justice, then it's about much more than just us. How do we connect our work to the liberation of others? Picture sent with love and solidarity from Puerto Rico #PeoplesClimate - Educators - Organizers (with the symbol for the International Day of Peace).
Having to “publish” = good. It requires synthesis, reality testing, and provides relevancy for learning. LBS teams presented their new strategies and plans for post Session B Action Period. The community provided critical feedback on sticky notes in the form of plus/delta/questions, so as to strengthen our local and national work.
Monday, September 22
LBS Learning Sessions bring people together for five days of collaboration to refine and envision what our shared analysis and learning looks like. We’re not at the end of the road, but we are in closer relationship with one another, and leaning into clear next steps forward as a community of educational changemakers.
“It's our last day at #ideaLBS but I'm looking forward to going home and supporting Team NEYON in growing it's tree!” - Keith Catone, Annenberg Institute for School Reform.
If making change in education was simple, then finding ways to share our collective learning across diverse communities wouldn’t be so challenging. As one participant puts it: “The reality of our work is messy, yet we are trying to create tools that are sensible. How do you create a tool that is legible for an illegible process?”
And now the action of LBS moves into the second Action Period, a time for each team to go back home to their local communities to bring back the learning and the love from Session B and implement the plans they refined, and for us to continue our cross-LBS work to build out a shared analysis and tool about how change happens in varying contexts.
Once again say a big thank you to the Boricua host team and the amazing people and culture of Puerto Rico.