My very first teaching gig was in the Adult and Vocational Ed teacher credentialing program at UC Berkeley. I taught there for two years, before moving on to other things. Those classes were so inspirational for me… my students were working teachers of all ages who taught all over the Bay Area. They taught in hospitals, corporations, high schools, junior highs, and vocational education programs of all varieties. I had someone who taught snow boarding, another taught people how to run a restaurant, another taught in prisons, some worked with seniors, several worked with persons with disabilities. It was amazing.
And because everyone was teaching in such dramatically different settings and with dramatically different kinds of students, the only thing I could do was go deep down into the foundation of teaching and learning… to a place where we could all connect. That place of connection was our love–for our students, our material, and the craft of teaching itself. That deep place was where we could connect and learn from one another.
Those classes and students inspired my book, Getting Messy: A Guide to Taking Risks and Opening the Imagination. I loved going deep with those students, and they loved it too.
One day I led a talking stick circle. It was the last day of class and a man who’d barely spoken a word during the entire course held the stick. There was dead silence in the room as he wept and talked about the difficult lives of students… who were incarcerated.
And I’ll never forget the very first 15 minutes of my very first class. I was scared out of my boots! I started with a short activity that involved repeating our names in a certain sequence so that we would easily remember them. I said, “A community is a place where we know each other’s names.”
I’ll never forget the standing ovation I got.
Those classes became the basis of everything I’ve done since. I’ll miss Tolman Hall.