Courage to Teach is a professional renewal program for teachers founded by Parker J. Palmer. The program includes a series of retreats held over the course of two years. The goal is to give teachers time to reflect on their profession and discover new ways to sustain their careers and personal lives. The Tomey Center and LinWood School project is funded by the New Hampshire Humanities Council (NHHC).
Prior to this NHHC project, teachers who participated in national Courage to Teach (CTT) retreats gathered from different schools from across the country. What makes the LinWood School project is that never before has the CTT program been launched in one school for a group of teacher colleagues. At LinWood, 40% of the faculty is participating in the retreat series.
Jean Haley, an independent Courage to Teach facilitator, and Polly Chandler, Director of the Tomey Center, have worked together to implement the retreat series. Jean facilitates the retreats and Polly is a participant observer as part of a comprehensive program evaluation. The LinWood project has also created a hands-on evaluation opportunity for ANE alumni and current students. OM alumna Elizabeth Schon Vainer ’04 and current students Sarah Gates CP ’08 and Dave Chase ’08 have supported the evaluation of the project, and are considering the question of how the Courage to Teach retreat program impacts the climate and culture of a school.
In early October, eight LinWood teachers and LinWood superintendent Michael Cosgriff, joined Polly Chandler at the Boston Public Library to meet Parker Palmer and participate in a reception for the newly released Center for Courage and Renewal publication Leading From Within: Poetry that Sustains the Courage to Lead.
Parker Palmer took time during this busy event to talk with the teachers about their experience. He asked how the retreats were going and what they thought of the program. One teacher replied: “It’s been transformative.” There is great enthusiasm and national curiosity about the New Hampshire Humanities project because of the implementation in one school.
The participants continued with their retreat series at Geneva Point Center in Moultonborough, New Hampshire in October. The next gathering will be at the center in January 2008 and the retreats will continue through August 2008.
The Tomey Center is proud to be a part of this innovative work and look forward to sharing the results of the evaluation with ANE and the national Center for Courage and Renewal movement.