My name is Laura Jones, and I’m a writer, filmmaker and educator, living in Columbus, OH. I’ve been volunteer teaching at Springhouse since August of 2020. Currently, I’m supporting a writing workshop with the oldest cohort during their LGBTQ+ Studies class and leading an internship in screenwriting and filmmaking. Last fall, I decided to write my NYU Master’s Thesis on Springhouse; I was so inspired by their approach to education, respect for learners, and just the downright atmosphere of love that I saw at Springhouse. (I should also mention that my wonderful cousin is Board Chair Kim O’Donnell, which is how I came to know about the school in the first place.) As part of my Master’s Thesis, I’m also participating in the Sourced Education Design Lab.
My thesis is about the vulnerability and vitality I witness every time I (virtually) step into the Springhouse classroom. I was curious about how Springhouse encouraged vulnerability and why. What, I wondered, does vulnerability have to do with education? I understood from my own experience as a student – and later as a university teacher – that a certain amount of vulnerability is implied. When I interviewed Jenny Finn for my paper, I said that I could see how learning, by its very nature, involves being vulnerable. If I ask a student what to make of The Great Gatsby, for instance, and they risk offering what they think, they’re vulnerable. But that, I said, is an intellectual vulnerability.
Jenny replied wisely, “We have different aspects of ourselves, but when I’m reading The Great Gatsby and somebody asks me what I think about a paragraph and I have no idea, I’m in my emotional self. I’m in an old narrative of ‘you’re not smart’ or ‘you don’t know what the teacher wants you to know.’” A light bulb went off inside me. Moments like this helped remind me that, as teachers, we are never just providing information to someone’s mind, we’re treating the whole child respectfully, and in the process changing their, ours, and ultimately, the world’s future.
For my Design Lab project, I’m going to continue to address this idea of vulnerability, finding new ways to tear down the walls between myself and the learner, following Paulo Freise’s guidance to frame the dialogic relationship between us as teacher-student and student-teacher. The secret teachers rarely tell you is that we are actually the ones learning every day; and that is joyful. I love teaching because it allows me to be a lifelong learner; to practice the greatest humanistic art there is; and to participate in what we’ve come to call The Great Conversation. I’m so grateful to Springhouse for the opportunity to do that with them.