I’ve never been one to listen to podcasts, and yet, in the midst of the COVID19 pandemic this spring, I have lost myself in conversations on Unlocking Us, On Being, and the Happy Place. From these raw, often vulnerable conversations, I have begun to uncover myself – finding others who think like I do – whose experiences reflect my own – whose thoughts affirm my own. I have been pleasantly surprised by my sheer joy in hearing these discussions between important people. This joy springs from understanding that no matter our lot in life, our stories are often hold similar threads.
On a more recent episode of One Being, Krista Tippett interviewed entrepreneur Jacqueline Novogratz, and their discussion included her recent work Manifesto for a Moral Revolution. The podcast is one I have listened to multiple times, so many times because I felt like was listening to a friend – someone who truly understands my heart – my desire to leave this world a better place than I found it, not just at the end of my life, but every day – every day I should leave the world a better place with my footprint.
At points in my life, I’ve wondered if I’m too idealistic – if my dreams are too big. And yet, I am an eternal optimist, and I am an idealist. Even when I misplace my rose-colored glasses, I usually find them within a few days. In the interview, Novogratz reflects on realizing that we should dream dreams so big they cannot be accomplished in our lifetime. Along the way, though, we should intentionally empower others around us to not only fulfill our dreams but imagine their own larger than life dreams.
This idea of creating dreams so large they cannot be realized in my lifetime is liberating. My dreams typically envision a radically different K-12 public education system – one that is truly student-centered – one that draws on the natural curiosity of children and offers them ownership of their knowledge through inquiry, discovery, failure, collaboration, and celebration. Occasionally, I have felt like I am beating my head against a wall – change is so incredibly slow.
Yet, Novogratz’s observation reminds me of the power of my work. While many of the preservice teachers with whom I have the privilege to work will continue the status quo, slipping into the expectations of their administrators and colleagues – afraid to push back too much. In many ways, I understand this fear; I don’t blame them. It’s hard to shift a system as deeply rooted as the American public education system.
While my dream of a transformed educational system may not be fulfilled in my lifetime, for nearly two decades, I have worked with pre-service teachers who embrace their potential for unlocking the fetters of the standardized world of 21st century schools. A few understand the agency of children and young adults, educators who see themselves as side-by-side learners with their students.One, two, or several of these young educators will eventually push my dream even further. If I do it right, several will be so empowered they will create change within their own classrooms – their own schools – their own school corporations – and perhaps even the state or nation.
But this my dream. In fact, it is just one of many of my dreams. Ultimately, though, it is important that I dream. For these dreams inspire me to seek understanding – to finetune my discussion points – to find ways to make my vision palpable for others so I’m not just a dreamer.
In the end, it is important that each of us dreams so magnificently that we cannot fulfill them in this lifetime, but we can chase after them, taking others with us, empowering them by whatever means to carry out those visions as well as dream their own. After all, that is how change happens isn’t it?