Over 100 staff members in the La Porte Community School Corporation will be taking part in a professional development course created by Dr. Brené Brown in hopes of creating more courageous and vulnerable schools.
Brown, a professor and social worker at the University of Houston who has been researching shame, vulnerability, courage and empathy for over a decade, has recently taken her work and created COURAGEworks, a company with online courses for the masses, including one created specifically for educators. Her research has led to three NYT Bestsellers, countless awards in research and social work, stints on the Oprah Winfrey Network, and two viral TED talks.
La Porte has a special tie to the course, as LPHS educators Jen Hunt, Carolyn McGuire, Erin Parker, and Janie Ulmer were four of the 30 teachers from around the country invited to take part in the development and filming of the course. They spent weeks working with Brown’s team and the team from the Oprah Winfrey Network that is partnered up with Brown’s company. Due to the work in the summer, the COURAGEworks team gave 100 free seats in the course to LPCSC staff.
The course--Daring Schools: The Four Pillars of Courage--will lead teachers through the staples of Brown’s work. It’s a step in a new direction rather than the usual professional development corporations participate in. La Porte educators will veer away from standards and pedagogy and look at creating stronger relationships with each other and their students. It will push educators to model the courageous act of showing up and being vulnerable with their work, to learn to own mistakes as lessons to learn from and as proof of trying, and to have the hard conversations needed to push through tough times.
“Everything is relational. We know that student success and achievement are directly linked to positive relationships built within the classroom, yet how often are we talking about how that work gets done and what is it that gets in the way? Dr. Brown’s work will pave the way for brave and courageous leaders, teachers, students, and classrooms, and ultimately, I believe, revolutionize the field of education,” McGuire, LPHS English teacher, said.
That may just be the key: relationships. The Daring Schools course doesn’t focus on assessments or popular initiatives. It is solely focuses on the emotional aspect of education, which many say has been lost with the high stakes testing overhaul.
“It’s important because it re-emphasizes the human spirit when talking about education,” Hunt, LPHS Guidance Department Chair, said.
Education, at its core, is about the kids. It’s not just about the kids who excel and receive high praise and accolades. Education is about every single kid feeling like his or her life matters to that teacher or to his or her school. Brown’s course aims at breaking down the barriers that can get in the way of real authentic learning from happening.
“In my role as the Director of Virtual Learning, I have the opportunity to work with kids who experienced tremendous struggles academically that have resulted in feelings of shame when they are in school. Dr. Brown’s work has helped me to identify their defense mechanisms, be vulnerable, and have honest and open conversations to help kids work towards achieving their goals,” Ulmer said.
The upside of this professional development is limitless. If one wants to change the world, one only needs to start with a kid. It looks like LPCSC is going to be doing just that--brave and vulnerable kids.
The course, starting October 17th, can be found at http://www.courageworks.com/shop/classes/Daring-Schools-The-Four-Pillars-of-Courage and is priced at $50.