New View EDU Episode 15: Inspiring Wonder and Community in Schools

Available April 12

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After the many challenges of the past two years, how healthy are our school communities? How attuned are we to the lessons we can learn from the people and influences around us? How can we approach learning with gentleness, curiosity, care, and a sense of wonder? And what do mushrooms have to do with any of it?

Michelle KingLearning instigator and love activist Michelle King looks to nature as our “first teacher,” and draws inspiration from the natural world to strengthen her work with students. In this episode of New View EDU, Michelle joins Tim Fish and Lisa Kay Solomon to talk about how schools can become incubators of the beloved community, and how integral a sense of wonder and belief in the inherent value of each person is to creating environments where student and staff well-being can thrive.

Although many of our impulses have been to speed up and try to accelerate learning and content-sharing after the disruptions the pandemic caused to education, Michelle shares her belief that we should do the opposite. She encourages educators to slow down and approach this moment with sensitivity and reflection. Using the metaphor of mushrooms and the mycelial network, Michelle reflects on the importance of trusting invisible processes that can ground us in healing and creating stronger networks, even through trauma. She speaks to the importance of viewing each person as a fully capable and important member of the network and of using wonder and trust to bring out their inherent strengths regardless of imposed structures like standardized testing. And she urges all educators to consider the question: How can I raise the collective wisdom of my community?

Key Questions

Some of the key questions Tim and Lisa explore with Michelle in this episode include: 

  • What is your view on the true purpose of education, now and in the future?
  • What does it mean to return to the wisdom of the land, or nature, as our first teacher? What can educators glean from that?
  • What does it mean to be in community, both alone and together, and how can a sense of wonder bring community to the forefront?
  • How has your work with the National Writing Project shaped the way you teach, and how you help students see themselves—and be seen?
  • How can we foster environments of trust to build stronger communities?

Episode Highlights

  • “Winter is the hardening of the ground. So this is a time of reflection. This is a time of restoration. This is the time of withdrawal. In our culture, we treat everything like spring, go, go, go, grow, grow, grow. But you don't get the incredible brilliance of the flowers of spring without the hardening of the ground in winter.“ (3:59)
  • “And I think about students who taught me so many life lessons, who are, who also had a sense of wonder, but they, these things can not be quantified or contained on a standardized test, but that wasn't a standardized being. That was a very complex and beautiful being that showed me the world.” (14:38)
  • “How many spaces do you walk in, and you're like, you're more than enough as you are? You know, a lot of times we come into spaces and it's like, especially teacher PD, is oriented around the idea that you don't have enough. You're not enough.” (20:19)
  • “I remember reading a piece years ago that said busy-ness is another form of laziness. And I was like, what? I'm American. Busy is a currency, you know? But what's called for is connection, real connection. And to have that kind of connection requires trust. Trust, community, all these things are living concepts. They are not like, okay, we got trust in, you know, on Wednesday. And we're good for the rest of our lives. It is a living entity, just like community is a living entity.” (23:50)
  • “I think one of the things as humans that we really want to be is to be seen. And another way to say that is to be loved. Is to be seen in our full complexity. I think that's when we come alive, I think we can inspire and teach people from that place of being fully seen.” (28:17)
  • “We all have a part of stardust. And you think like, look at that. That's amazing. That being over there, even as complicated and challenging as they might be in this moment, that's a wonder. And I think to have that kind of a delight, and if we can't find it, I feel like we are not doing right, what it means to be lovers of life.” (38:09)

Resource List

Full Transcript

About Our Guest

Michelle King is a learner first and foremost. A teacher. An instigator. She learned and honed her craft in Mt. Lebanon with a fantastic crew of educators and students for over 15 years. Most recently, she taught at The Environmental Charter School where she created opportunities for students to learn, discover, be challenged and express their thoughts, dreams, and desires. Constantly in pursuit of making connections locally and globally, Michelle pushes the envelope and boundaries of where learning should occur for all students. Through her partnerships with the Western Pennsylvania Writing Project, University of Pittsburgh’s Office of Child Development, Vanka Murals, Theater of the Oppressed Pittsburgh and the Remake Learning Network, Michelle is a lifelong learner and is joyfully in search of ways for us humans to learn in public as well as to get out of our heads and into our hearts.