One way to describe our work at Opal School is “a pedagogy of listening and relationships.” In her most recent post, Opal 1 teacher Marcy Berkowitz shares a story that comes from focusing on just that, describing how that opened doors for her to discover something surprising about sunflowers with her five-year-old co-researchers. “A pedagogy of listening and relationships” describes our work co-creating curriculum with children - but also our work collaborating with each other and our work with interested educators and organizations around the world.
As we begin the school year with children, we also begin a new cycle of our professional development work. The most intensive cohort with whom we work is through our Mentorship Program. That group joins us repeatedly throughout the year, both for our public workshops and online offerings as well as for program-only meetings and discussion groups. I valued my work with the cohort last year, and some of the reflections expressed in our last meeting suggest that participants shared my enthusiasm:
As an administrator of a startup school, I’d feel drummed down by everything. It was only the Mentorship Program that reminded me of what I went into this for - of the hopefulness and possibility.
I had to come here a lot of times before I could notice challenges. The first time, all I could see was the environment and being in awe of the documentation and find out what kind of pencils they use. Now when I come, I barely even take any pictures. Now I have a relationship with the teachers, I know them, and I can really see.
For me what really helped were the protocols - going through the protocols. We started doing those as a staff. We went and used the framework for the project work and used the protocol and it gave us a framework - a permission - to be vulnerable. So you learn to respond without judgement.
I’ve learned a lot about listening... what does it mean to be listened to fully, and what does it mean to listen to someone else. I've started listening much more to the kids, because it’s become a part of me now - it’s driven me through this whole Opal journey: thinking about listening, thinking about thinking, how do kids perceive us, how can we collaborate with each other... It’s been uncomfortable at times - I don’t think any of us have ever thought about something like this before.
I’ve learned to love the feeling of not knowing now.
Last year’s group included school directors, regional coordinators, center supervisors, and infant/toddler-, preschool-, and elementary classroom teachers from five states. This year’s group includes a concentration of Head Start teachers from the greater Portland region - an exciting opportunity for us to work with that influential group. Next week, the cohort joins other participants in engaging with the materials we organized in Opal School Online 1.0. Three weeks from now, they’ll have their first group meeting and attend our October 11 workshop, Creating Learning Communities. While we’ve gotten the conversation started through our Wiggio platform, I’m excited to start forming listening relationships around the passionate interest we all have in children.SPECIAL DISCOUNT! If you've been thinking about joining us October 11 but need a special incentive to act, save $20 if you register by Monday September 23. Enter the code LEARNING.