The framing concept for Sunday’s meeting was somewhat of a meta-word: “Meeting.”
Our Community Times are essentially a learning space. Today seems like a good day to think about what we hope to do in not only this learning space, but all learning spaces. So, whether you are an aspiring teacher, or just someone who interacts with other people on a regular basis (all of us), a good understanding of what kind of learning is happening in relationships is helpful as a learner and as a teacher. Below are some thoughts and practical tips from Parker Palmer:
“The goal of a knowledge arising from love is the reunification and reconstruction of broken selves and worlds. A knowledge born of compassion aims not at exploiting and manipulating creation but at reconciling the world to itself. The mind motivated by compassion reaches out to know as the heart reaches out to love. Here, the act of knowing is an act of love, the act of entertaining an embracing the reality of the other, of allowing the other to enter and embrace our own. In such knowing we know and are known as members of one community, and our knowing becomes a way of reweaving that community’s bonds.”
(Taken from To Know as We Are Known)
In this passage, Palmer equates the words “to know” and “to love.” Generally, knowing is seen as an individual act and loving is seen as a relational act. Not to Palmer. For Palmer, all knowing is relational. We must know in relationship because our minds don’t exist in isolation, they necessarily exist in community-they exist within a context. Thus, there is an emphasis on community and the specific context in which learning occurs. Below are the paradoxes that Palmer believes must inhere in a learning space:
The space should be bounded and open. Without limits it is difficult to see how learning can occur. Explorations need a focus. However, spaces need to be open as well – open to the many paths down which discovery may take us. ‘If boundaries remind us that our journey has a destination, openness reminds us that there are many ways to reach that end’. More than that, openness allows us to find other destinations.
The space should be hospitable and “charged”: We may find the experience of space strange and fear that we may get lost. Learning spaces need to be hospitable – ‘inviting as well as open, safe and trustworthy as well as free’. When exploring we need places to rest and find nourishment. But if we feel too safe, then we may stay on the surface of things. Space needs to be charged so that we may know the risks involved in looking at the deeper things of life.
The space should invite the voice of the individual and the voice of the group: Learning spaces should invite people to speak truly and honestly. People need to be able to express their thoughts and feelings. This involves building environments both so that individuals can speak and where groups can gather and give voice to their concerns and passions.
The space should honour the “little” stories of those involved and the “big” stories of the disciplines and tradition: Learning spaces should honour people’s experiences, give room to stories about everyday life. At the same time, we need to connect these stories with the larger picture. We need to be able to explore how our personal experiences fit in with those of others; and how they may relate to more general ‘stories’ and understandings about life.
The space should support solitude and surround it with the resources of community: Learning demands both solitude and community. People need time alone to reflect and absorb. Their experiences and struggles need to be respected. At the same time, they need to be able to call upon and be with others. We need conversations in which our ideas are tested and biases challenged.
The space should welcome both silence and speech: Silence gives us the chance to reflect on things. It can be a sort of speech ‘emerging from the deepest part of ourselves, of others, of the world’. At the same time we need to be able to put things into words so that we gain a greater understanding and to make concrete what we may share in silence.
(taken from The Courage to Teach)
Do you create learning spaces? Where do you have the opportunity to learn? To teach? When has a space like this been provided for you? What have learning spaces like this allowed in your life? What needs to change in order for you step into spaces like this? How can you meet others in your learning and contextualize yourself and your knowledge?