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Leadership and Activism, Philosophical Meanderings

First Year Reflection: Beacon of Hope

Like the Co-op, the clockhouse at Goddard College serves as a beacon of hope for progressive educators

A year ago I was finishing my graduate program, teaching an elementary school class, and enjoying stimulating conversations with Aaron Eyler on his blog while expanding my professional learning network. One day Aaron asked if I was available to Skype to discuss a new project he and Chad Sansing were thinking about hatching. He wasn’t quite sure the details of the project, just that it would be some sort of collaboration. I could never have known what would be born from that call.

Over the past year I have enjoyed the rigorous discussion on the Co-op. I miss the days of scheduled topics and posting days, as there was a certain spirit and rigor that process contained. However, I could not be more pleased with what the Co-op has evolved into. With more than 50 registered bloggers, nearly 500 posts and 4,000 comments, the Co-op is not only a dynamic place for current conversations, but also has become a repository for some of the best and most honest conversations about education on the web.

Personally, blogging on the co-op has helped me to hone my voice and vision for educational change. The interchange of broad and diverse ideas (even though we may all be “progressive” there is still a wide spectrum within that label) has widened my perspectives and engaged me in issues I would not have known I cared about otherwise. It has also been a great platform to share my ideas and work for sanity. I am a dedicated change-maker, and it is rewarding to share the strategies and stories of my adventures with people who sincerely want to contribute in significant ways, but don’t always know how.

Perhaps most rewarding has been getting to know passionate and brilliant educators all over the world. These are vibrant personal connections through the sharing of honest reflections, hopes, and dreams. Further more, while limited, I have had the joy of working on some collaborative projects with other Co-op members. Even without ever meeting them in person, we have accomplished tasks exemplifying respect and openness in ways seldom found in our “off-line” lives. Whether editing together (thanks Paula) or redesigning the website (thanks David), the manners displayed while still being completely honest provide case studies for what high-functioning learning teams can look like.

Despite “succeeding” in my own traditional school experience, I had little hope for the profession of teaching based on the majority of my personal experiences. Re-entering schools armed with a graduate degree in education (from the greatest progressive school in the world–Goddard College) and greater life experience only made me more furious about what has been and still is happening.

The Co-op has reinvigorated my hope that there is a real chance for an education revolution. For example, hearing Chad’s story of going from a data and test junkie to a fighter for critical consciousness is perhaps one of my brightest moments of realizing there is hope. But also meeting Monika and learning about the Innovation Lab in Colorado, and then more and more amazing people doing small acts in their classrooms that add up to large-scale collective resistance. The revolutionaries are in schools everywhere. I am privileged to now know so many and their stories. And I know there are thousands more. I hope that the Co-op continues to be a beacon for them to come to. I will continue to send messages of sanity out to the world from it.

It is this congregation of human energy for change that most energizes me now. As we have seen with #blog4reform and #blog4nwp there is tremendous potential and power here at the Co-op. The question now is what are we going to do with it?

About Adam Burk

Adam aims to serve the greater good; alleviate unnecessary suffering; and create beautiful, sane human communities in concert with the living planet. Recently, he has helped to rebuild local food systems in Maine in large part through school food services, organized the TEDxDirigo conference, and is a digital organizer with the Institute for Democratic Education in America (IDEA).


12 thoughts on “First Year Reflection: Beacon of Hope

  1. I love the idea of the Coöp as a congregation, Adam, and I’m one of the many community members who has been inspired by your know-how and stories of activism.

    That was a trip – to go back and read the post of mine to which you linked. In re-reading the comments I came to miss immensely the structure and intent of our early conversations. I think, in some way, we need to work back towards that depth of interchange, support, sharing, and questioning, even as we broaden our membership and act more.

    Given your skill set and perspective, I’ll ask you this next question: how do we get people who were not successful at school to join us and work for more substantive change than school choice between the schools with low scores and high scores?

    All the best,

    Posted by Chad Sansing | April 27, 2011, 8:19 am
    • Well, Chad, I’m glad you asked. How about I use that for a que for another post rather than taking a lot of real estate in these here comments.

      As for missing the structure of old, what do you think we should do about that, if anything?


      Posted by Adam Burk | April 28, 2011, 11:52 am
      • Adam and Chad, I too long for some of the structure and intentionality of the early scheduled posts. How do others feel about this?


        Posted by kirsten olson | April 28, 2011, 6:57 pm
      • I like the idea of hybridizing where we were and where we are – perhaps some kind of weekly opt-in post on a specific topic, authored by “coopcatalyst” with paragraphs contributed by – and individually attributed to – everyone who opts-in by a weekly deadline? With a word limit?

        I look forward to more of your activism advice –


        Posted by Chad Sansing | April 29, 2011, 8:25 am
      • I think that is a great way to learn from the past and continue to move forward Chad!

        Posted by Adam Burk | April 29, 2011, 9:03 am
  2. As a Canadian outsider looking in, I enjoy the posts!

    Posted by bridgesburning | April 27, 2011, 11:12 am
  3. I really enjoyed reading this post. I’m a newish blogger with an education passion but struggle sometimes to write as often as I’d like to. There are some amazing writers out there & that makes me nervous. Perhaps I just need to grab my pencil & do it (well key board!)

    Posted by jfb57 | April 28, 2011, 5:23 am
    • Writing is a life-time craft. As long as you are dedicated to refining it, understanding that any piece can only approach perfection for a moment (as we will always see how we could have written something better when we look at it once time has passed), and you are willing to approach it with humility, then you’re on the path!

      Blogging is a great experiment. To try out ideas, and to try communicating them in effective ways. So yes, grab a keyboard and get to it! I hope to see more of your writing here!


      Posted by Adam Burk | April 28, 2011, 10:55 am
  4. I love the energy you’re showing everywhere Adam and this post is no different! I admire your ability to be constantly active discussing, providing feedback and offering help to people at the various places where I run into you, like the TEDx organizers group or TED Conversations, to mention few outside the coop! 😉 I guess one of the great things about accepting a life of a passionate learner is that you don’t feel like you’re wasting your energy when doing something that may feel one-way (like helping total strangers on a forum) as by building those interactions you enrich your connections with the people and let yourself learn from them too! This is where I seem my own beacon of hope — as long as I feel I am learning, I know I will do well!

    Looking forward to running into you in many more places and learning together! 😉

    Posted by kima | April 30, 2011, 1:06 am
    • Thank you Kima! I enjoy seeing you across the internet too. It gives me strength to see you and other friends working hard in your communities and giving voice to important issues across platforms to reach the global village.

      I love this idea of knowing that you are doing well if you are learning. Thanks for that idea to contemplate as I go out to enjoy this beautiful spring day!

      Posted by Adam Burk | April 30, 2011, 10:09 am

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