Rethinking Innovative Education

“If teaching is to be reformed in our time, it will not be the result of snappier teaching techniques.  It will happen because we are in the midst of a far-reaching intellectual and spiritual revisioning of reality and how we know it.” Parker Palmer

Parker Palmer’s To Know As We Are Known, first published in 1983, is deeply relevant today, and this quote in particular has everything to do with what we like to call innovative education.  I found the book when I was a graduate student studying educational psychology at the turn of the millennium, and I was awestruck-  I did not know exactly what was meant by a new reality, and at the same time, I could feel the exactness of the words cutting straight to my heart.  Looking back now, I can see how the future was pulling me toward it.

In 2015, this message of a new reality is everywhere.  Scientific evidence provides support for a global field environment that connects all living systems and consciousness.  We are revisioning who we are and how we know, along with our relationships to each other and to the planet.

Some schools are adapting, taking a more holistic view of the child, and cultivating what are termed “21st century skills,” such as empathy and teamwork.  The majority are stuck in an outdated and narrow definition of intelligence and how to measure it.  We know this, but how do we get un-stuck?

We can’t just throw in some “snappier teaching techniques” and call it transformation.  Leaders in education and in every sector have to become active participants in the revisioning of reality, which begins within ourselves.

Once we relax into ourselves

we can trust in the planetary crises as evolutionary drivers

we can open to a fuller picture of the human being

Yes, we have to relax.  We have to relax into ourselves.  This is a radical act, because we want to get out there and fix things!  But that is the old way of the mind-  forcing solutions based on limited logic, and it’s out of balance. Changes in the system will not bring the wholeness we desire. It is the cultivation of wholeness within ourselves from which new systems will be built.

With a relaxed mind and ego, we activate the intelligence of the heart, an understanding that arises from our whole being.  From this space, we can sense a possible future that our minds can’t yet even grasp–

this is the unknown, emergent future, from where we must lead.

Our actions in the world must come from this inner knowing.  In economics, MIT researcher and founding chair of the Presencing Institute, Otto Scharmer, calls this the shift from ego-systems to eco-systems.  In education, so much depends on how we answer the questions- Who are we? How do we know?

I can think of nothing more innovative in education than to support teachers in this new way of being.  Innovations in all sectors will sustain when we cut through the red tape and birth new structures based in this new reality…a reality to which we must be radically receptive.

How lucky are we to be living in these times of great challenge and potential, with the opportunity to re-imagine ourselves and our relationships with one another and with the world?


(A huge thanks to the Association for Childhood Education International for giving me the opportunity to lead a roundtable discussion on this topic titled Transformation from the Inside Out, at the Institute for Global Education Diplomacy)


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