Wednesday, December 29, 2010

North Dakota Study Group Conference: Teachers as Organizers, Professionals, & Artists--Creating Democracy In and Out of School

The North Dakota Study Group will hold its 2011 conference/meeting outside of Chicago this February. It is a major space for progressive educators to learn from each other and share ideas. You can register at

This year will be different from most conferences you have attended - as this opening section from the description found on the website explains.

Register Now!

-Monty Neill, Ed.D.; Interim Executive Director, FairTest, Boston, MA
North Dakota Study Group Annual Meeting
February 17 - 21, 2011
University of St. Mary of the Lake
Mundelein, Illinois

A Welcome from the NDSG Planning Committee:

The 2011 Planning Committee invites you to attend the 39th meeting of the North Dakota Study Group, which is held every President's Day weekend, now at the University of St. Mary of the Lake, in Mundelein, northwest of Chicago.

In the face of continued political rhetoric about reform that remains highly focused on standardized testing and business model ideologies, this year’s planning committee decided to focus on three vital aspects for today’s educators: organizing, professionalism and the artistry involved in teaching students.

To best accomplish our goals, we will build on the Highlander model by organizing our discussions around sharing stories of the work we do, discussing and evaluating those stories, and finally planning actions, from the classroom to the community to the nation. Our speakers and panels will be fewer, but excellent:
  • Daniel Morales-Doyle and Lutalo McGee – from the Social Justice High School, a campus of the Little Village Lawndale High School in Chicago
  • Taeko Onishi – Director of Lyons Community School in New York
  • Amy and Tom Valens – teacher and film maker
  • Bob Peterson – teacher, writer, activist, organizer, editor of Rethinking Schools

At Highlander, activists start by analyzing their own life experiences. . . (the building blocks of adult learning, according to Mesirow). A favorite quote of Myles Horton is, "You only learn from experiences you learn from." The participants start with where they are, naming their reality through storytelling and describing their problem or issue. The next step is building self-esteem through the validation of those experiences. Being told what to do by others hasn't worked for the activists or for their communities. Through their stories, learners share with others their problems and come to understand how those problems are related and how they as activists can learn about possible solutions from each other. Each person has a piece of the "knowledge pie;" each can contribute to the whole, and the whole becomes the basis for working toward a solution. Highlander then helps activists motivate themselves by asking, "who better to do the leading in solving this problem than you? You KNOW the problem best, and you can lead others in creating the solution." At the end of a workshop, participants make a promise to take the next step in the justice-seeking process once back in their own communities and to report back to the Highlander group on their status at a later time.

From Highlander Center: Historical and Philosophical Tour by Highlander Research and Education Center. The whole article is at

We are taking this more interactive approach because we see it as modeling a progressive approach to schooling, one in which we learn from one another even as we also learn from our presenters. Our readings this year, too, will contribute to our shared exploration of the conference themes. Your engaged participation will make this conference a special experience.

Whether this is your first or thirty-ninth meeting, you will leave invigorated, challenged and most likely a bit exhausted by the stimulating conversations, thought provoking presentations, informative workshops (Works in Progress) and hard thinking. Each year the conference receives feedback that expresses the value received from spending a winter weekend with this diverse group of teachers, activists, teacher educators, college students and youth from across the country. Here are a few from last year:
  • "I gained strength just knowing there is such widespread passionate network here!"
  • "I feel rejuvenated and reconnected to my roots…able to give my students voice."
  • "I am taking away inspiration, new acquaintances, ideas and resources!"
 All the info you need to register -

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