I sit in my kitchen in the quiet of the morning and my amaryllis bulb catches my gaze. It is tilting to one side, unable to hold its beautiful blossoms erect. That bending towards the light captures my attention. I realize that I am ready for change.
After ten years, I have made the decision to step down from PSi. I am so proud of what we have created, but running PSi without my lifelong colleague and friend, Carmen Torres, just isn’t the same. I am leaning in, perhaps towards a new light, wondering what is next. Here are a few things I know I’ll do:
I will continue my teaching at Harvard Graduate School of Education and Cambridge College, Puerto Rico. I love my students in these very different environments. I will continue to consult both here and internationally. I hope to travel more in my future.
Building Democratic Learning Environments: A Global Perspective, a book I’m editing, along with two of my former HGSE students, requires a lot of time and attention to make the publisher’s Spring deadlines. I’m excited that many of my colleagues have written excellent chapters.
I look forward to the time and mental space to pursue some other writing, too. I want to write about some of our amazing PSi alums–there are almost 200 of you! I’d like to capture what you are doing and how you are changing your worlds. I would also like to write about schools that have withstood the onslaught of high stakes testing and continue to center the needs of their students and families. And I would like to write about my teaching life with Carmen. Stay tuned on where that goes.
As you know, my pottery has become a growing passion, and I’m excited to learn new techniques and study with different master potters. I am beginning to find my style and “look,” and I am so satisfied when my ceramics find their way into your homes and kitchens. I love when you send me pictures of you with your morning coffee in my handmade mug! I get so much joy in knowing that something I made gave you such pleasure.
Of course I will continue to find time to be with my family, especially my growing grandchildren.
When Carmen and I first conceived of PSi, we were leaving active school leadership; we had founded Boston Arts Academy together and knew something about what it took to run successful schools. We also knew that successful schools depended on young people finding their passions and a strong sense of belonging. We talked about balancing art and academic learning with wellness–long before social-emotional learning was a term. Community with Social Responsibility, one of our shared values, was lived on a daily basis and not just a sign on a wall. After BAA, we wanted to build a program that developed emerging leaders’ expertise in creativity and community collaboration. We saw a disconnect between school leaders and community organizations. Schools struggled to meet the needs of their students without deep partnerships. We also felt that thinking like an artist was a skill that most leaders had let atrophy. We wanted to honor the work of Vito Perrone and Ted Sizer, two of our most beloved mentors, who understood the connections between schools, community organizing, and creativity. PSi carries their ideas, their tenacity, and their hopefulness. Boston University gave us the opportunity to design the first iteration of our ideas. Soon after that, we moved our work to the small nonprofit, Center for Artistry and Scholarship, and partnered with UMass, Boston. When the pandemic hit, we moved our partnership to Cambridge College and finally, after discussions with many other organizations, to Hale Education. I am pleased with how Hale has honored the legacy that Carmen and I created. Now, I’m ready for a new chapter in my life and career.
What has stayed constant this past decade is the imperative to create better schools: no school is an island. Schools must be rooted in the communities they serve, complex as that relationship can be. Most importantly, we must create contexts that allow young people, especially the most vulnerable, to experience success and to find joy in learning. We know that success begets more success. Too many of the schools we have today are punitive, focus on easy-to-measure test results, and fail too many children.
As I look to the future, I am excited to see how our many PSi alums are creating different conditions for teaching and learning. I look forward to visiting your work places, and documenting your successes and challenges.
I hope that 2023 brings light and joy to you and your loved ones.
- Linda Nathan, January 2023