The return

Last night, I had the opportunity to attend a conversation with Ward Mailliard, who talked about “Re-Humanizing Education.” (He’s the guy in the tie above!)

Ward was brought into town by Peter Block and “A Small Group.”  I cannot express what a treasure Peter Block is here in Cincinnati.  I first heard his name a few years ago, and as I mentioned, first heard him speak when he gave an introduction to Judith Snow in 2008.  (A funny aside:  There is a man named Peter Bloch, who is the Executive Director at a local workshop.  When I first heard about the work of Peter Block, I thought they were the same person and was in awe at what that man accomplished with his time!)  Since then, I’ve had the good fortune to work more closely with him, in particular on the Connectors Table project, which is related to his new book with John McKnight, The Abundant Community.  It’s really exciting work and a lot of fun, but I’ll need to devote a separate post to that in the future.

The more I hear from Peter, the more I’m amazed at what he does and what he means to our city.  FYI, he’s really humble and defers a lot of credit for this work to others, but make no mistake, Peter has the attraction of a magnet and drive of two men (get it?..two Peter Block(h)s!)  He’s not big on celebrating his birthday, but I told him how Jean Vanier says we need to party more.  So in that spirit, please note that his birthday is on July 29th:)

Back to Ward:

Ward told us of his work with his students, the trips they’ve taken and the approaches he uses in the classroom.  He told stories of how he understands that life happens to his students, and he tries to look at them as individuals and as people to be cared about.  He spoke a bit on how we claim to want to raise compassionate and engaged citizens, but our educational systems are designed around power and control.  The audience was mostly educators, which was good news, so I hope they take his message back to their classrooms.  I thought of our field’s emphasis on person-centered approaches..we might be ahead of the game on that…

I was particularly interested in how he breaks down what he calls “the learning journey” into a call, a journey, and a return.  The call is the curiosity stage, the journey is the experiential stage, and the return is the reflective and sharing stage.  Make sure to check out that link.  It’s important stuff.  Especially the return.  I think everyone last night thought (and I agree) that we all neglect the return stage too often.  In a sense, this blog is part of my return stage.  It’s so important to share our learnings and discoveries with each other.  And to do it in a personal basis.  That’s why this blog is not a sufficient “return” for me.  I’ve got to talk to people about this:  friends, people I work with, Bridget.

The small group technique is a perfect complement to Ward’s stages of the learning journey, so our conversation and learning last night was completely consistent with the message.  There was a call to curiosity, which was the invitation/email/thinking behind each gathering.  Then there was the experience of listening to the presenter and ideas.  It was followed by getting together with two or three others, reflecting and sharing, and then bringing those thoughts back to the large group.

It was a terrific night and again, I just can’t say enough how thankful I am that Peter is bringing people like Ward into town.

katie bachmeyer