by Andreea Gatman
Revised and edited by: Albert Stephen Salazar Corrales and sierra ying allen
This essay is a process of observing patterns and weaving practices based on 25 interviews conducted with educators, philosophers, entrepreneurs, researchers, and artists, titled ‘Voices from Reimagining Education Conference 2021”. In addition to the references for the interviews in the text, you can find the complete list here and information about the Ecoversities Re-imagining Education Conference here: https://re-imagining.education/
The word Education comes from the Latin word educere, meaning “to draw forth”. We are in a moment of inspiration to re-imagine education because current systems of education and learning seem to perform quite in the opposite direction than “leading forth”. As we become aware of the contradiction between the meaning of the word and what we see as a result1, we find ourselves on Journeys to Reimagining Education. These journeys are contemplative and dialogic processes held in culturally diverse contexts, and collectively, we find diverse ways for re-designing education and learning. As we return from these personal Journeys of reimagining2, we create bridges, re-connect and nourish the system(s) of education (from everyday insights, ancient wisdoms, indigenous sciences, arts, etc.) to grow towards a co-creative future.3 The intention is to integrate the re-imagined forms back into systems, what we visualise is the openness for this nurturing to be possible.
Educere, lead/draw/take forth or away. If we imagine our journey as a movement, it is one of shifting, moving from one point to another. Yet we also notice the movement itself, not only the point of departure and arrival. The movement can be seen as Thomas Hübl expressed as the FLOW, the ability of individuals to relate. As one truly follows the self journey (the skill and act of courage), she/he can relate and reimagine the journey for a collective, which means the journey, the movement resonates from micro, to meso to macro levels, The movement leads us to Re-imagining education as the Journey “to develop our capacity to see, and evoking in others the capacity to see”.
In this essay, I explore 25 interviews from “Voices of Re-imagining Education” and observed how these individual journeys weave together to show patterns that can serve as a map for anyone interested in creating the visual of their journey. The intention is to collectively recreate (or reclaim) a map for a re-imagined education. With that image in mind (you might call it a destination) we can each personally develop our skills as navigators/explorers to go from where we are now – or where our education system(s) are, to someplace else, someplace we do not yet know, but that we sense is waiting to be discovered/remembered. Having a map with a departure point and a destination does not mean our Journeys are the same nor that the destination will look some particular way. The propelling force of creating the Journey (the reimagined education), is the movement of each individual or community, “as change [that] could happen through the almost invisible work of developing the capacity to hold/contain many people to see things in different ways”.
While we explore the patterns (weaving or harvesting) one can shape them into different artifacts. One artifact might be skills developed while navigating/exploring. A second one would be a map, a 4D or inner map, a vivid representation: we might call them acupuncture points . The acupuncture points are moments of shifts, subtle yet critical points with ripple effects. They are opportunities to stimulate change. Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu says, “often learning consists merely of a subtle shift in perspective”. The map being more than a collection of different points or stops. There is the systemic connection, an “enabling mechanism that allows us to not only connect the dots, but also to see ourselves, and the significance of our work, from the whole.” These acupuncture points can also become an “orientation system”. Each navigator/explorer can embody (imagine/visualize) such points to prepare for the journey. In the words of one of the guest interviewees, Eliana, “for each of us to be able to train ourselves with these skills of connecting (translating)worlds”. In the end the capacity developed (that of the explorer/navigator) is that or “remembering”.
To have a sense of a destination (the Re-imagined Education), to understand the navigator’s skill for reimagining education, and the Map of the journey, each individual and community could set out for their own discovery.
The wall: Step one is defeating the barrier. The oasis: Step two is seeking nature. The paper: Step three is letting go. The bridge: Step four is connecting your home to your culture. The snake: Step five is facing your fears. The break: Step six is fixing your past mistakes with the future. The stall: Step seven is reclaiming your past and remaking it. The cave: Step eight is finding questions in answers. The smoke sign: Step nine is hearing the call. The mask: Step ten is honoring your traditions. The boat: Step eleven is living the dream and leaving the island.
Drawing by Tea Cristescu deviantart.com/thequeenofligers
The 11 acupuncture points:
- Willingness to stay with a “stuck” moment. Listening to the interviews, one can notice the Confidence (root word from Latin “ fidere” meaning trust) and the Courage (root word from Latin Cor meaning from the heart), as guests stay with “stuck moments”. Stuck moments are the ones in which one does not try to suspend or get rid of the hard/difficult/unpleasant feeling of things not “being right” but stays with the feeling (the actual anatomy of a stuck moment) to see what “that crack and brokenness”, as Uri Noy Meir called it, could bring as new learning. Arawana Hayashi describes, “you let the feeling of that be present, and you don’t buy into the storyline. It wakes up another kind of knowing, maybe even touching on some kind of wisdom. Everybody has it in them, but not everybody accesses it.” In all the interviews, in the first minutes, one can see the embodiment – the bodily representation of that “stuck moment”: holding the breath for a moment, eyes going soft, breath slowing down, change in voice, the silence. There is the tendering of the heart as the suffering does not create a reaction but a response. The human development skill here is the ability to have a response, not a reaction to powerful forces from the environment. Andrea Gonzalez Andino expressed that the pain/suffering did not come from the external condition (in her story the high altitude mountain cold) but from the resistance (what above I called a reaction). Non-reacting to powerful forces, leaves you with more energy to build up a response. In the interviews, the voices of the different guests (Carol, Andrea, Eliana, Uri) point to this moment of “taking a breath”, just sensing and then asking, “What is this situation/context demanding from me?” (Eliana, min.6). Staying with the stuck moment is utterly different than staying in a context that is affecting you and your Journey, or your learning. For example, Uri left Galilee, Eliana needed a break from the Peruvian reality and history “because that work was so intense”, Carol left the University, etc.
- Going into nature as a way to communicate with others. As I was asking viewers what it felt like to listen to the interviews, I received feedback such as, “I felt a sense of beauty and peacefulness”. I began to wonder, as the same answer was repeated from interview to interview, that this was connected to this idea from Bill O’Brian that, “the success of an intervention depends on the interior condition of the intervener ”. In most of the interviews, Shashi, Robyn, Andrea, and Uri, for example, each spoke about their process (mindfulness, going out in nature) that they do every day as a ritual. Robyn shares her experience of swimming in the ocean every day, no matter the season, for the whole year. Going out into nature as a daily practice, is not to ease the situation, nor to get rid of the stress, it is to stay with whatever is showing up. While going out into nature, each one in their own way, they also found an inner journey (as Andrea shared, “getting to places in myself by walking the mountains”); this is a reminder that Re-imagining education is about herself/himself/themselves, it is personal. Learning as “being with nature”, in the sense of, if we want to learn about nature, where should this happen better than in nature? Allowing nature to be the teacher. We can see this with Vu’s story of the local farmers, or Hasmukh’s teaching students about solar panels. The human development (or personal) skill is a practice of becoming one with nature. When facing a challenge in our environment/social context, not going with a fixing mindset, yet being one with nature, one with the challenge we feel the urgency to face. That mindset, in the words of Andrea Gonzalez, is “our connection with the territories, we listen to other voices”. One other aspect of this acupuncture point (and that might be why so many educators are also interested in and speak about permaculture; Uri, Gregory, Morag Gamble, and so many of the guests invoked the topic) is that you do the work but let time do the rest. A lot of education is working the field (like in permaculture) and also observing. There is a lot of observing with no interference. Andrea Gonzalez talked about learning by just staying and observing, then, after years, seeing the result.
- Unlearning. What do we most need to unlearn? Mostly, the answer was related to the “Conventional Academic Container”. By this container, we refer to the “academic conventions” that are no longer serving and are in need of revitalisation. We can follow this with Robyn Fila; we might sometimes leave our learning systems (in the case of Robyn, that was formal education and teaching and with Uri or with Carol, research and teaching) to do something utterly different and then to turn back (find a different way back) with that reimagined work and create possible new stories/new ways and bridges. With Robyn it was reviving midwifery, with Uri the arts & Social Presencing Theater, with Carol, eco-therapy and Shashi’s wellbeing labs. The unlearning with young people’s voices, appeared as a sense of being lost, living a contradiction: “[I had] the love for learning and knowledge and yet did not feel any connection with school (Filipe, Tarik), being taught by ideas exclusively (the academic), disconnected from the spiritual, cultural, and indigenous. Young people are embodying in these interviews the “hardship” of unlearning, yet one can also see the wondering of the beginner’s mind.
- Coming back, bridging from the Journey to the “system of education”. This acupuncture point seemed the most fruitful and creative to me. I observed the changes in the guests, they felt the need to leave the system, explore individual sense-making and then, after 5, maybe 10 years, they returned. As Uri mentioned, “during the pandemic, I started teaching again in the University”. Robyn Fila returned after 10-15 years to the University of Victoria, Canada. Creating bridges from the Re-imagining education journey with the current system, is a way of allowing the system to sense and see itself. It also seems to have the function of nurturing the system. Andrea Gonzalez is giving the example of indigenous pedagogies that nurture the mainstream academy, and that is what the conference (the Reimagining Education Conference) is creating, a container to channel radical, decolonial pedagogies from the global south back into the mainstream academy. Robyn Fila, returning to the University in Canada, mentioned, “I care how you go into other cultures (referring to students during international internships) and to be able to build relations, not imposing your way of being on other people, not thinking my way of understanding is the way”. With Robyn Fila, you can see that her study and personal interest (and care) for Midwifery nurtured the academic program for preparing students for multicultural encounters. Eliana expresses bridging in reimagining education as “connecting different worlds between indigenous and academic, human and nonhuman, culture and nature” that are disconnected and “to save them”. This acupuncture point is utterly the beauty of Reimagining Education work, the step of bringing unity, reconciling, and mediating.
- Listening to fears. Fears played a crucial role in most journeys. It was not avoiding fears, but facing fears that put the guests of the Re-imagining education on the Journey; Uri describes the moments of PTSD, Carol describes the fear we might feel as we lose “the white supremacy”, Zoe weaving further on this last idea, with decolonizing education. Facing fears, and building bridges is an invitation to non-judgment, not changing one another, and holding all views as we open up a “safe way” to a dialogue. Creating some spaces in which everyone- of formal and reimagined education ideas meet and open up cooperation and dialogue. By non judging, we turn and face our fears, we practice Courageous and Confident actions. In the interview with Ana, she mentioned “you get to have a journey in the body when facing the fears.” Felipe expressed his fear as “the lack of my own fight”..and he adds “yet being in that University, I felt compelled to find my own fight, they all had one”.
- Transgenerational healing. There will be much more weaving to be done for this acupuncture point. What I can start to see unfolding as a pattern from the interviews is the urgency to nurture the academic mainstream with meaningful language, nature and indigenous knowledge. Zoe Valerie is bringing the voice of her mother “the gentle warrior”, Andrea Gonzalez’s grandmother inviting her to learn by watching, as well as realizing that education happens over time and we cannot give it a deadline. Eliana Otta is focusing on the collective mourning process, to allow social or public practice of mourning. Suzanne O’Sullivan, neurologist and author, investigating different collective traumas (social-cultural psychological phenomena) in different communities around the world, says she is most impressed with the communities (like the Miskito) that created a new collective story to allow inter-generational healing, allowing new collective stories to be shaped. This might be mirrored in the words of Zoe Valerie about micro-communities, as the need to build a new story around connection and feeling safe/secure. From the youth perspective, “voices of the young people, their strengths and being moved by that”, allowing the transgenerational healing to start from the voice of the young ones, allowing them to map and, “listen to their voices, their desires and subjectivity”, says Felipe Hoch de Proença. Also described as the Healing of the “Broken Relationship between indigenous knowledge and science, generations, culture”, in the voice of Morag.
- Re-imagining education as entrepreneurship– the human capacity to innovate. Carol defines it as how do we bring together all of the disparate things learned during the Reimagining Journey. In the end, innovation is the willingness to act. Carol continues painting this explicit portrait (also appearing in other interviews with Uri, Andrea Gonzalez, Shashi, Robyn) that of bringing together: my structured learning (my degrees), my values, and earned values, and my lived experiences ( embodied learning). What is willingness? It is something that comes from the Intelligence of One True Move, going back to the interviews it is not waiting for a glorious right moment – it is living the small shifts of every day work and awareness. Acting on the learning is, going back to Carol’s words “how do I combine all of these things so I can create a coherent impactful contribution for a better future?”. From the voices of the youth, this idea of “what is the meaning of life” comes as in the interview with Tarik, as he wonders that although he enjoys academic studies, would this contribute in to him solving problems around. With this perspective science and academics can no longer afford to be like in an inaccessible ivory tower, but opened and even more, nurtured by art, spirituality, indigenous knowledge. Reimagining education as entrepreneurship is central in the interview with Vũ Truong, on Alternative Education. Vu has reimagined his own education from a social entrepreneurship perspective in close connection with local farmers, promoting their ways. In the case of Zoe Valerie the entrepreneurship was to find the way back to reformed education from dance and artistic activism. In the case of Adi Benea and his students, it is the IndiGaia project learning with care for the planet in the Galapagos Islands.
- Finding more questions than answers. Reimagining education is one’s personal Journey in life. Andrea Gonzalez talks about her Nature Journeys and going with questions, she says “how do we co-create with Nature, how do we co-create with mountains?”. The Reimagining Education journey brings you closer to true questions rather than answers. There were specific exploratory questions and it seems that in the center of all of them there is the powerful question “how do we bring it all together, how do we connect?”. Andrea Gonzalez is asking “ How do we make a life out of these connections”, Carol Williams mirrors “how do I combine all of these things so I can create a coherent impactful contribution for a better future”. Finding more questions than answers from the voices of the students/youth is Self Directed learning, as presented by Morag, returning to the informal teachers (land, seeds, earth, plants) it appears as “correcting” the colonial learning “what the school did not teach me”. The learning is an emerging process with “young people leading the programs, instead of having a program and delivering it to them”.
- Attending the calling. In the interviews I reviewed, there is the person on a traveled path (a researcher, teacher in University, head of a company, student, licensed tourism guide, English Teacher, Engineer, etc) and there is an opportunity, a ‘calling”, that is very different in terms of the known and traveled path, to which she/he/they answered yes. From there, it is just like in permaculture: cultivating care, and the awareness of details. That brings the person very close to what we call deep learning (a new kind of learning). This attending to the calling is a human felt quality, in the interview it feels like time stopped so one could notice and take good care of all the details. The true calling is embodied in all interviews.
- Place-based, becoming indigenous. Going beyond the understanding of creating and being aware of the space, community and socio-cultural context, reimagining education is like a seedling process. You take the small plant, just sprouted in its place where the seed was planted and you place it in a totally new area, a new field. In the interviews, one is aware of ones cultural context (values) that comes in a very different cultural setting and then there is “a new people” birth, in the case of Uri (the Jewish values & childhood and socio-cultural brought into Italian social-cultural context), with Anna (the Ubuntu), with Robyn the (Czech Republic), with Charlie (with Colombian socio-cultural context in Estonia), with Adi (Romanian socio-cultural values in Galapagos) etc. There is the encounter of multiculturalism, diversity of cultures that might play a crucial part in both healing as well as creating new “stories”. The concept from health science and Ian Hacking looping effect of a new hybrid socio-cultural contexts in which reimagined education appears. As we restore the human connection to the place, the land, we develop our capacity to be indigenous, as Adi Benea said in his interview “we are all indigenous to Gaia”.
- Embodied learning. The first meaning of this is doing one’s process every day, the embodied practice, fueling the Journey with awareness practices. There might have been misinterpretation in some cultures, that living the dream might feel like a glorious moment, yet as we can hear in the interviews, it is more the spirituality of small steps, very small changes with full awareness practiced daily that brought them on the Journey. Uri talks about embodiment practices, Carol Williams about learning based on experiences, Ana Caladrelli the lived learning. Arawana Hayashi, makes the distinction between the Social Field- the quality of the connection we feel when interacting, learning, communicating, and the Social Body, the structures we build as we meet for a shorter or longer time. In the interviews with Uri, Ana and Robyn, you can sense the distinction and the care for bringing awareness to the Social Body, and the Social Field. The Social Body of the coming together, and the quality of connections being the Social Field; Ana makes a parallel in her interview on Ubuntu, between understanding the concept and feeling the concept (“the lived learning experience”) saying that, “experienced-based learning – nothing can be more important than that.”
Instead of conclusions a continuation…
This essay brought me to thinking about “wayfinding” – indigenous navigators/explorers’ skills and tradition, and considering that we might remember (learn about) a “reimagined education” (sensing the destination) with children/young adults and accessing the imaginal field. Their voices co-create and will help us in future research to fine-tune the map and the process. The intention of this essay is for educators, parents, decisions makers, to practice their own mapping with the guidance of the 11 acupuncture points”
1 In his book Free to Learn, Peter Gray says: “If we want to understand why standard schools are what they are, we have to abandon the idea that they are products of logical necessity or scientific insight. They are, instead, products of history”.; source https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/freedom-learn/200808/brief-history-education
2 These journeys are contemplative and dialogic processes held in intentional community, looking at the seeking process and transformative, from micro level (the invidual path) to meso and maco (community urgent needs for sustainable solutions and/or more global pressing reimagining considering global climate, de-colonialisation or collective healing)
3 In the language of Theory U matrix for education, moving from a student-centered to co-shaping the future, prof. Otto Scharmer see more here
4 See Thomas Hübl, Healing Collective Trauma: A Process for Integrating Our Intergenerational and Cultural Wounds and this short video extract https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xippZtruAS8
5 Lisa Donahus, Dialogic Dialogue meeting, 13th December 2021, educators part of one Room one World Schoolhouses)
6 With educators, teachers, artists, philosophers, physical therapists, wellbeing weavers, and researchers…
7 Andrea Gonzalez reminds us the perspective on reclaiming education as something that is out there for us to rediscover and claim back
8 Inspired from Carol Sanford
10 Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu is an American Japanese psychologist at Stanford University. He teaches and researches human development through mindfulness, Asian wisdom, science, compassion, and responsibility. He is a speaker, workshop leader, and author. The words are from his book “From Mindfulness to heartfulness:Transforming Self and Society with Compassion”
12 Plato’s “learning is remembering”, one true meaning and Pythagoras to train the mind to recall and integrate
14 Accepting a situation from the heart, what is this situation asking me to do instead of accepting a situation because you feel a victim of circumstances you feel you cannot change.
15 I had a small group of both men and women interested in the topic yet from different fields watch the interviews and share their comments with me.
16 In Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer goes out in nature with her biology class and allows the swamp ecosystem (the plants, the micro-organism) to be the teachers, she steps back and observes this wonderful natural process or learning as if you are one with nature.
17 In Braiding Sweetgrass Robin Wall Kimmerer, talks about working & learning with earth (humus) will raise in the body the level of oxytocin, the hormone of happiness.
18 See Tarik interview min 1.14 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xuOHfWnMgo&list=PLMmsDJI3oSWKPxlWAwBAoihBNrzdyZtZV&index=22 and Filipe’s interview https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rmY2bSwqZwE&list=PLMmsDJI3oSWKPxlWAwBAoihBNrzdyZtZV&index=14
19 In Braiding Sweetgrass, the author talks about letting the plants be the teachers of the students, as they was out in nature (in the miraculous swamp) teaching her biology lessons, and seeing the wonders in learning of the beginner’s mind p 183
20 Andreea talks about grandma’s way of learning to cook by just watching, the same invitation was passed on to her; and then she started practicing that learning after 15-20 years.
21 Educating Educators through Permaculture with Morag Gamble, min 1.52 “ permaculture as conversations & relations “ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zi_HQ9Ep4RQ&list=PLMmsDJI3oSWKPxlWAwBAoihBNrzdyZtZV&index=18
22 As expressed by Arawana Hayashi, by Buddhism artists, teachers.
23 Min 8 from the interview with Carol Williams https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pxg-z6bQNKM&list=PLMmsDJI3oSWKPxlWAwBAoihBNrzdyZtZV&index=16
24 It is the words expressed by Manish Jain, when asked how to start a school for the 21st century he replied “ tell me what is your community economy”; by that my understanding is what is the lucrative systemic relation around learning in your place-based.
25 Interview with Morag about permaculture and Self Directed learning https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zi_HQ9Ep4RQ&list=PLMmsDJI3oSWKPxlWAwBAoihBNrzdyZtZV&index=18 min 1.52
26 With Carol, eco-therapy, with Anna, physical therapy, Uri, social theater facilitation, Vu, local sustainable tourism, and social business, Eliana, the Art Social Mourning Rituals, etc.
27 See Adi min 13 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4u435ZNKry4&list=PLMmsDJI3oSWKPxlWAwBAoihBNrzdyZtZV&index=8 Andrea Gonzalez min 5 talking about her project bringing questions to the mountain https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H7YeyOXnj3w&list=PLMmsDJI3oSWKPxlWAwBAoihBNrzdyZtZV&index=12
28 In Braiding Sweetgrass, the author expresses this as “living with 2 feet on the ground”, “can we live here as we were staying?” “putting aside colonialism and live like we are natives”, p. 162
29 It is Andrea’s listening to the other voices, making space for that (referring to indigenous pedagogies), Adi’s truth that we are all indigenous of Gaia and Eliana’s question of how we train ourselves to communicate between these worlds.
30 Interview with Adi Benea, teacher from Galapagos Island, place-based learning and teaching with care for the planet https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4u435ZNKry4&list=PLMmsDJI3oSWKPxlWAwBAoihBNrzdyZtZV&index=7
31 Social Body and Social Field, concepts used and detailed in Theory U and in the book Social Presencing Theater by Arawana Hayashi, 2021
32 Jung defined imaginal as THE field of choices, of all possibilities
Andreea Gatman is a Facilitator & Coach with 20 years working in international projects, weaving with Ecoversities’ Re-imagining Education Conference, and the online platform “local training with global support for teachers & communities of learning” (www.actonlearning.org) M.E.S Graz University, MBA Public Governance, Modul University Vienna, BA in Political Studies (SNSPA Bucharest, Bologna University).