26 Mei 2009

Trusting the Possibilities: Giving Voice to Vito’s Ideas

English Version

My work with Vito Perrone and the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) began in 1979 when I came to the University of North Dakota as his Associate Dean. My work with the person and the place was a turning point in my professional life and critical to the educator I have become. How I was so fortunate to be chosen for the position is one of those mysteries that can only be explained by Vito’s trust in the possibilities he always saw in people.

The work I did with Vito and with the groups he invited me to join led me to refocus the way I attended to schools, teachers, and children. CTL tried to relate to schools in a way that was unusual in my experience. Instead of the distant view cultivated by many in higher education, the importance of working to achieve understandings of schools and teaching and learning from the inside and in partnership was the emphasis. From Vito, this urge to refocus and shift perspective came in at least two forms. History and the story it tells was then and is now ground for much of his thinking and advocacy. He stands as a “reminder that our work as educators is not without a history; that many of the problems we currently struggle with were faced by others before us, sometimes confronted differently, often times more intelligently” (Perrone, 1998, p. 1). He rued the a-historical stance that educators often take, a stance that tends to simplify. As a corrective, he urged teachers and schools to tell their stories and to keep the records that would be needed to write their histories. Directly related to this position are Vito’s ideas about how policy should be developed. As he states in the Introduction of Portraits of High Schools, policy recommendations need to emerge from “adequate descriptions of school practice” that show the everyday life and work of schools as it exists in its variety across the country. To be adequate, these descriptions have to give voice to the local knowledge of the people and communities whose schools are being described. To be adequate, the policy that emerges from knowledge of the particulars of schools should create room for educators to use their best professional judgment in the implementation of practices aimed to support the large human and democratic purposes of education.

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