Archive for January, 2014

Dreams and Visions

January 26, 2014 Comments Off on Dreams and Visions General

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This cold, snowy, bleak time of year can be very difficult.  As I walk in the winter winds, I inevitably remember one of my favorite fictional heroes.  He is a little field mouse called Frederick in a Caldecott Honor book written by Leo Lionni. Frederick is very special because he knows the value of dreams and visions. While the other field mice were busy gathering nuts and grains for the winter, Frederick stored up a vision of the rays of the sun, bright colors, and beautiful words. Later that winter, when the food began to run out, Frederick sustained his little mouse community with dreams and visions that gave them hope strong enough to bring them safely into spring.

I attended a christening recently; the sermon right before the baptism was named dreams and visions.  I was inspired to reflect anew on the unstoppable power of our ability to transcend reality with a determined view of what could be and what we might become. It’s a beautiful message for all babies, and it is equally important for all of us.

Dreams and visions lead us to our mission – our life’s work.  There are many “winters” of a different kind in the lives of adults – setbacks, losses, difficulties, and disappointments.  Yet people are amazingly persistent, striving from day to day to accomplish what at times may seem impossible.  I have been interested for many years in asking people how they actually managed to fulfill their life mission in spite of the challenges they faced. It is not uncommon for them to answer, “I have no idea of how I did it!” Looking back, they are happy about what they accomplished but unsure of how they persisted through setbacks and difficulties to meet their goals.  They might be mothers who raised children alone in deeply challenging circumstances, or fathers who carried several jobs and just managed to pay the family bills every month. They might be people with disabilities who broke through potentially devastating barriers to accomplish things of which they were very proud.  Or, they might be people who had made very serious mistakes but found ways to transcend them and rebuild lives of value and purpose. In every case, I always believe that their dreams and visions played a major role in what they were ultimately able to do with great success. They have “no idea of how they did it” because in many ways they were carried by the strength of their spirit and belief (no matter how illogical) that it could be done.

Dreams, visions, and missions are “equal opportunity employers.” They don’t require wealth or prestigious degrees; they are egalitarian in their availability to every individual.  Once the heart is set on fire with a sense of purpose, life can have a great meaning in the simplest and even the most difficult circumstances.  The impossible becomes possible.

We teachers must persist in finding ways to foster the dreams and visions of our students. They have to believe that there is a reason to strive for their goals – they have to dream of a great future even when the odds are against them having one.  Our students must keep hearing stories of people who had a dream and a vision – people who would not let go of the possible even when struggling with impossible circumstances.  And we need to keep our own dreams and visions alive as well; somehow our students can always tell when we have them. Standardized tests, ever-changing policy, never-ending paperwork, harping public criticisms of teachers and schools – we can’t let them drain or destroy what we envision for our students.  In the future, possibly many of our students will have “no idea” of how they managed to construct such good lives for themselves – but they may well remember the teachers whose dreams and visions somehow paved the way.

Written by Beatrice S. Fennimore a teacher educator focused on advocacy and social justice for all children

 

HAPPY NEW YEAR 2014!

January 4, 2014 Comments Off on HAPPY NEW YEAR 2014! General

 

 

New Year Fireworks

Since childhood I have relished the idea of a whole new year ahead of me. I’ve always enjoyed opening a brand new calendar and thinking about all the things that will fill those blank spaces. I hope that each person reading this blog has something engaging and invigorating to anticipate in 2014. One of the things to which I look forward the most is the publication of my new book STANDING UP FOR SOMETHING EVERY DAY: ETHICS AND JUSTICE IN EARLY CHILDHOOD CLASSROOMS (Teachers College Press).  My publisher has sent me the edited manuscript, and I’ll be reviewing queries and making changes during the next few weeks. Happy say,  a publication date is anticipated for this coming April. I will be so happy to see my book in print at last!

Of course, as excited I am, I know it is important to be humble. I laughed out loud in the library a few months ago when I read a joke told by Dr. David E. Purpel in his book MORAL OUTRAGE IN EDUCATION. This joke describes two professors walking across a campus to their offices.  One professor says “My new book is being published today!” The other says, “Congratulations! What did you call it this time?”  We professors do tend to stay focused on the same topic! However, if we are writing in earnest, I think we also keep getting closer to the fire of the truth we seek.  The issues for which we have a passion become more complex with time and experience; every understanding opens up essential new questions. That is why it is so satisfying to me to keep thinking and teaching and writing about child advocacy and social justice.  The more I understand about the complexities of these topics, the more I want to share my insights and ideas with others.

I have a better understanding than ever before of the depth of character and resilience that is required of teachers who are advocates. However, I continue to believe with all my heart that we can indeed be models of commitment to the social justice that is deeply embedded in the ethics of the teaching profession. Our central and overriding professional ethic is that no child should be harmed in the process of education. Where we see the harm of discrimination, of denigrating attitudes toward children, of harmful and disingenuous educational practices – we absolutely do have the power to stand up and (however gently) speak out.  We also have the power to act on behalf of children – with patience, with compassion, and with resilience. I know we are standing up against some very powerful forces and I also know that our efforts often go unseen and unheralded. Yet stand up we must!

Maybe this is what should make a new year most exciting for every teacher – the opportunity to be courageous and principled on a daily basis. The children are watching – and many others are watching too. In many ways, determination is contagious. Every teacher writes a book of her or his own by constructing, day after day, a place of inspiration, protection, and hope for children.

Written by Beatrice S. Fennimore a teacher educator focused on advocacy and social justice for all children