Masked teacher teaching elementary school children.
SPARC- Reconvening in Person a Treasured Experience


Spirited Practice and Renewed Courage - Reconvening in Person a Treasured Experience
By Deborra Sines Pancoe, Associate Director, Friends Council on Education

What do you do when your professional learning experience has been disrupted by COVID?

Like educators everywhere, Spirited Practice and Renewed Courage (SPARC) co-facilitators Shu Shu Costa and Deborra Sines Pancoe pivoted and offered workshops on Zoom. By doing so, as the world was in “lock down,” the 2019-2021 SPARC cohort benefitted from continuing to connect with each other. Still, the retreat quality of SPARC was elusive in the virtual format.
Finally, in October 2021, when it seemed as if the pandemic was somewhat at bay, about half the current cohort came together in Cape May, NJ for their second in-person SPARC retreat. Some cohort members made the decision not to attend; reasons included lack of a substitute teacher, concerns about air travel, health issues, and... new babies! 
For those who assembled, the retreat was a treasured experience. Most workshop sessions were held on the hotel’s expansive porch or breezeway; people were socially distanced and felt confident of adequate ventilation. The program included threshing sessions, reflective journaling, using poetry to examine the teaching experience, using visual art to explore soul, role and growth, worship-sharing on the beach, and gathering on Sunset Beach at day’s end.

Threshing topics included: 
    •    How do we support colleagues through crisis?

    •    How do I balance my parent “hat” and my professional “hat”?

    •    Supporting my own child in this crisis

    •    What should we be doing to address social and emotional skills?

    •    How do we stop just “talking about racism” and become actively anti-racist schools?

For the SPARC exercise, "Using Collage to Explore Soul, Role & Growth," participants used what Parker Palmer refers to as the “Third Thing” - an object, a story, a poem, etc. as a lens to explore the inner life of a teacher. Beginning with a mindful, observing walk, participants gathered found objects and created collages to speak to these queries.
    •    What contributes to deepening your spiritual connection to your work and sharing with your school?

    •    What helps to feed your soul?

    •    What helps you to grow?

    •    What practices nurture your professional life? 

    •    How has this led to you bringing yourself more fully into the classroom? 

    •    How has this created more of a venue for professional development as you bring it back to your school?

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