As I begin sharing my thoughts on Kathleen Fitzpatrick’s keynote speech on Generous Thinking I will admit that my views are based on my being a teaching lecturer who only teaches one class during the Fall semesters; a class comprised of freshmen students. Did I feel slightly marginalized when she noted that her book was mostly targeted towards full time faculty? Yes, but I convinced myself that feeling slightly marginalized is not a bad thing as it offers opportunity to move forward, look inward and proceed onward.
I agree with Kathleen that education, as a whole, has migrated towards placing more emphasis on economics and competition than learning. But I ask myself, is it really be true that our institution doesn’t care about us and that they don’t love us? Is it really true that they only think about making money? Is it really true that we, alone, can’t make this place more humane? If these are indeed truths to those of us who are employed here then it certainly is devastating to the students who fill our classrooms. What happened to the magic wand that could make all of the negative realities of life go away in a poof? As Kathleen noted, there is no easy path to take us from here to a better place but that implies that a path does indeed exist.
Generous thinking rests on some of my core beliefs and values. Trust, safety, respect, open communication, listening and working toward a collective good. These are values that I bring into my classroom; however, I must be honest in saying that at times, it is difficult. I remind myself that students may not be there. They may not be ready to trust or be trusted. They may not be ready to feel safe enough to communicate honestly or directly. They may not have a desire to connect on personal levels in the classroom environment. Some students just aren’t there and I remind myself that what feels like a failure on my part may be a failure that stems from the larger society in which we live. Do any of us really feel safe?
I am hopeful still. What gives me hope is that educators are thinking about and writing about how to make positive changes in education. They are questioning and moving away from standardized testing and performance exams. They are moving forward in different and exciting directions. As Kathleen noted, the task for change is too monumental for one person. Here at Plymouth State I firmly believe that CPLC is moving us in the right direction. I say this because CPLC is a concerted effort that focuses on “social” instead of “individual”. It is an agency that is built on learning from each other, listening to one another, working towards one collective goal that is built on doing good and creating a new model. It is community, it is us.