Old gravesites are full of lost stories. When I was in my hometown over the winter break, I wandered into a tiny family cemetery in which the stones tilted at awkward angles, the result of a sinking of time. I was reminded here, at this stone, of all the children who look to their parents and us to keep them safe in our care. We never know what future might be lost, but we do know that in giving young people the best we have to offer many futures become possible.
While watching The King’s Speech, I realize that Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) defines what it means to call oneself a teacher. He doesn’t “cure” George VI of his stammer through any machinations of speech therapy strategies. Instead, he does what the best of educators have always done. He observes, he listens, he hears, he touches, and he feels. Through that process, he becomes a teacher. I watch the audience hang on each of King George’s (Colin Firth) movie words. In doing so, we each, once again, become part of the process of learning to speak. In the relationship created through the imperfect bonding of speech therapist and student, the King and the teacher learn from each other and for each other. When the movie ends, first there’s silence. Then, the ovation.
For the record, here’s a recording of the actual speech of King George VI to the people of Great Britain as they prepared to go to war with Germany.
It snowed in South Carolina the day after Christmas. We took down the tree, the ornaments, the crèche, and all the hanging garlands. My mother’s grown too old for us to leave it all to her in this tenth decade of her life. We put away fragile ornaments from her childhood. These artifacts, from a different world and time, were packed in a barrel and shipped by train from Oklahoma to a new home on a low country farm in the year after the War ended. This trip, she asks me to label with family names the chocolate pot and blue swirl pitcher in a china closet and Depression glass on a high shelf; one piece from a grandmother, another from a great aunt. As I work, my mother narrated family stories attached to each piece. Afterwards, I walk outside to capture snow on the camellias.
It started on October 17th and flowed into November 22nd. Last week, edu-bloggers began to reunite again to create together a nationwide effort to #blog4reform. No one blogger really leads #blog4reform. It’s been a collaborative work (thanks to @paulawhite @irasocol @tomwhitby @colonelb) in progress to create a movement for real grassroots reform that’s owned by those in the trenches doing the work. When I read the posts, I’m reminded of a scene set in the wilderness when a stranded hiker must create fire from a couple of oak sticks and a bit of dandelion fluff. The first wisps of smoke spiral upward, drafting from breaths blown through cupped hands. Then the tinder bursts into flames. Can a relatively few voices in the wilderness of social media ignite a movement? As George Romney once said, “if not us, then who? If not now, then when?”
Ordinary people in ordinary learning spaces all over this nation accomplish extraordinary things. It’s because they commit, persevere, and keep coming back. This new year gives us all the chance to invent, create, imagine, build, facilitate, collaborate, lead and act together. Don’t settle for anything less than extraordinary in your dreams and actions.