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Executive Extra

Monthly content focused on leadership exclusively for the Executive members of NAA.

Lessons From Italy

Monday, 20 August 2018 09:24

In June, NAA's International Learning Exchange (ILE) took place in Rome, Italy—where there were many lessons learned, visions shared and leaders leaving feeling inspired to impact their communities. Devan Blackwell, M.A., an Executive Member of NAA, has outlined his five key takeaway ideas from the event.

I'm leaving Rome and NAA's International Learning Exchange with so many rich ideas to take back home and apply to my work. Looking over the notes I took during the lecture panels and discussions with educators in Italy, I see that many of these ideas concern developing as a whole person.

While these ideas were presented as ways to enhance the learning experiences of the young people we serve, I also see them as reminders of how we can actualize better ways of being, doing and living in our adult lives. Here are a few of those ideas:

  1. Our inner growth as human beings must progress as technology does.

  2. We must be consistent in the development of our capacities as lifelong learners.

  3. As lifelong learners, we must commit to personal and professional development through formal and informal study, training opportunities, life experience and interaction with the world around us.

  4. We must understand a sense of unity in the world and the unity of life.

  5. We must see ourselves as being scientists of life, whose work is to: Explore, think freely, live consciously, learn from all that we experience and always see possibilities.

Now that things have been unpackedboth literally and figurativelyI realize these five ideas were perfectly woven into the tapestry of NAA's International Learning Exchange.

Conversations I had with fellow ILE participants in Rome revealed that we chose this opportunity as both an investment in our work and in our selves.

Experiential learning for practitioners in any field can have transformative results. Exposure to new ideas and perspectives can expand one's thinking and greatly influence the work we do. Lifelong learners or scientists of life are intentional about the pursuit of opportunities that lead to such outcomes.

In addition to lecture panels and discussions, NAA's ILE also featured guided educational tours to some of Rome's most famous landmarks and lessons about its rich and vast historyan invitation to explore curiosity and discover wonder could inspire one to bring more of these experiences to their work. Embedding these elements into the design of youth programming is essential, especially during out-of-school time.

Now that things have been unpacked, it's time to plan forward. Many of us went to Rome with the intention of bringing something back to the communities we serve. That something will be different for each of us, but I believe that we are all returning to our lives and work inspired from the same wellspring of possibility.

Devan Blackwell, M.A., an Executive Member of NAA and a graduate of The New School for Social Research, can usually be found in pursuit of possibilities—for learning and learning spaces. Whether a role has required him to act as a generalist or a specialist, he always serves as an enthusiast for the potential of young people to self-actualize and thrive, both in learning and in life. You can join Devan on his pursuit of possibilities via www.spatialosophy.com.

Photo courtesy of Devan Blackwell.