WASHINGTON COURAGE & RENEWAL
Professional development for teachers traditionally focuses on content and technique. The Washington Courage & Renewal program, an affiliate of the Center for Teacher Formation, chooses to go to the heart of the matter, taking a unique approach to revitalizing the teacher’s inner life. They have developed a retreat based experience that has proved highly successful in renewing the passion and original motivation that lives in the hearts of all good teachers and school leaders. Our children are the fortunate recipients of the fruits of their labor: quality relationships and quality teaching. In 2005, Washingtonn Courage & Renewal (WC&R) changed their name and broadened their mission “to renew and sustain the integrity, courage and commitment of those who serve our children, families and communities.” Continuing to support educators, WC&R’s focus now encompasses all serving professions, including human services, early learning, clergy, child care providers, healthcare and more. Please read on, and visit their website. Better yet, we hope you will be moved to find a way to support this important work.
Teaching From The Heart
“The question we most commonly ask is the “what” question—what subjects shall we teach? When the conversation goes a bit deeper, we ask the “how” question—what methods and techniques are required to teach well? Occasionally, when it goes deeper still, we ask the “why” question—for what purpose and to what ends do we teach? But seldom, if ever, do we ask the “who” question—who is the self that teaches? How does the quality of my selfhood form—or deform—the way I relate to my students, my subject, my colleagues, my world? How can educational institutions sustain and deepen the selfhood from which good teaching comes?”
“Most teachers enter the profession for reasons of the heart— they teach because they care about students. But the demands of teaching and the conditions of some schools cause too many teachers to lose heart as the years go by. Is it possible to help teachers take heart once more so they can continue to do what good teachers always do—which is to give heart to students?”
–Parker Palmer, author of Courage to Teach
An Occupation Under Stress
These are critical and trying times for public schools. With a current and worsening shortage of good teachers and principals, inadequate funding, rising expectations, increasing demands, and waffling political commitment, never before has it been a more crucial time to bolster teachers’ morale and to rekindle their passion for the profession.
Now More Than Ever
Current events continually remind us that in times of political and economic stress and insecurity, our children need teachers who can be fully present to their questions and needs for guidance, reassurance, perspective, and encouragement. Being able to do this for young people requires teachers to have a sense of wholeness, balance, compassion, empathy, energy, openness, and clarity. Maintaining the passion to teach and lead wholeheartedly takes not only skill, it takes inner strength and spirit. Now more than ever, it takes courage to teach.
A Creative & Thoughtful Solution
Under the guidance of Dr. Parker J. Palmer, Ph.D., author of The Courage to Teach, the Fetzer Institute created the Courage to Teach (CTT) program in 1997, piloting an approach to professional development called “teacher formation.” Courage to Teach is a program of the Center for Courage and Renewal and is offered by CR&R facilitators across the United States. The program brings public K-12 teachers, administrators, and other educational leaders together for quarterly retreats over one to two years to help rejuvenate their personal commitment to teaching.
The Courage to Teach program builds on a simple premise: We teach who we are. When we take time for reflection, quiet, and deep listening to ourselves, others, and nature, we can reconnect to who we are as people and educators, finding wholeness, vocational clarity, and renewal.
Through a process called “formation,” educators are invited to reconnect to their identity and profession—their “soul and role.” In large and small group settings as well as individually, participants use stories from their own lives, reflections on classroom practice, and insights from poets and other writers to explore the inner landscape of the educator’s life. Participants are invited to create a supportive and compassionate environment that encourages deep listening and honest speaking about their personal and professional lives.
Since Fall, 1997 we have offered 12 seasonal retreat series and 5 Introductory weekend Retreats, serving over 450 teachers and educational leaders including principals, superintendents, and teacher-educators.
he Courage to Teach program deeply impacts those who experience it. Enormous potential for positive change is rediscovered—leading to greater depth and vitality in student-teacher relationships, renewed collegial practices in schools, and the revitalization of teachers as leaders in public education.
While the retreats are “all about the teacher,” the ripples that emanate from hundreds of people teaching from the heart, going back to their classrooms and truly connecting with thousands of students are causing a profound wave of change.
Washington Courage & Renewal helps school teachers and leaders reclaim their personal identity and professional integrity so that they more fully nurture the minds, hearts, and spirits of our children. The program invites educators to reclaim their wholeness and vocational clarity and make connections between the renewal of the spirit and the revitalization of public education.
Washington Courage & Renewal is a 501c3 independent non-profit. New groups begin each fall with registration starting in late spring. For an up-to-date listing of retreats and programs, visit the WC&R website.