Recap: TeachingWorks Streaming Seminar with Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot

TeachingWorks interviews Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot from TeachingWorks at UMSOE on Vimeo.

“View, Voice, and Visibility. Three V’s”

These “three V’s” were the focus of Dr. Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot’s TeachingWorks Streaming Seminar talk entitled, “There is a Balm in Gilead: Forging the Connections Between Learning and Justice.”

In a sit-down interview with TeachingWorks before her talk, Dr. Lawrence-Lighfoot said she is deeply interested in finding new ways to think about the connections between education and justice to challenge the inequalities of education.

“I’m suggesting, in the theme of this series which is pivoting towards the light, that means we are trying our hardest to figure out ways of describing and framing this challenge of ours before us in ways that will not be negative or destructive but will rather be imaginative, illuminating, and enlightening,”  she said.

Dr. Lawrence-Lightfoot opened her talk by offering a riveting description of the various traumas we collectively witnessed in our society. Amidst these “perilous and treacherous times,” she highlighted the particular responsibility educators feels to take care of young people and support them in ways that “finds the precarious balance between mourning and moving on, between revenge and reconciliation, between grieving and getting busy.”

“But this afternoon, rather than be consumed by the darkness, I want to pivot towards the light,” she said during her talk. “I want to frame our continuing and deepening work as education researchers and practitioners as a project of inspired creativity, and a deep gesture of nuanced counterpoint.”

TeachingWorks Streaming Seminar with Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot from TeachingWorks at UMSOE on Vimeo.

Dr. Lawrence-Lightfoot’s frames of view, voice, and visibility, she says, are three challenges to the images and metaphors that dominate the public dialogue about education and schooling amidst a deeply troubled world. A common thread between each of the three frames is what Dr. Lawrence-Lighfoot calls a discipline of hope that both refuses cynicism and acknowledges areas of weakness in education. She argues a discipline of hope can be taught to and learned by pre-service teachers. For example, in past course called “Teacher as an Ethnographer”, helped future educators begin to see and understand the classroom as a cultural context. Students learned to observe and collect classroom data in ways that would challenge stereotypes and their problematic ways of seeing the world. 

“We must begin to understand the origin and the roots of our bias and our prejudice and reflect on those autobiographical stories that we bring that would cause us to see others as strange or dysfunctional or bad,” she said in a sit-down interview before her talk. “There are ways in which reflecting on our own stories, reflecting on our biases, discovering those through reading, through conversation and through dialogue in teacher training is very important. It’s not only about looking inside but also looking outside and understanding the subtle and detailed observational material that’s there in front of us that is also a very important part of teacher training.”

Dr. Lawrence-Lightfoot ended her lecture by singing the negro spiritual that inspired her talk title, There is a Balm in Gilead. She said the song is “a story of reframing, a gentle and brave effort to pivot towards the light, a kind of shift from seeing only suffering to seeing hope and possibility.”

“There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole. There is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin-sick soul.”

Our next TeachingWorks Streaming Seminar will feature Dr. Keffrelyn Brown. Register and learn more here.