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Harmonious Learning Starts with an Inviting School

By Suzan Mullane.

Need less stress and more joy in your school? Three cheers to the International Alliance for Invitational Education (IAIE) for spreading joy at its October national conference in Orlando: a cross-cultural celebration filled with positive informative workshops, engaging music, research and collaboration. IAIE’s believes in the power of the whole learning community.

What is “Invitational Education”?

Invitational Education provides a framework for making schools a more exciting, satisfying, and enriching experience for everyone’”all students, all faculty and staff, and all visitors, according to a paper by IAIE Board of Trustees Member William Purkey:

“This framework goes beyond reforming or restructuring; its goal is to transform the fundamental character of the school. Invitational Education asserts that everybody and everything in and around schools adds to, or subtracts from, school safety. It centers on four guiding principles of respect, trust, optimism, and intentionality.

  1. Respect: Everyone in the school is able, valuable, and responsible and is to be treated accordingly.

  2. Trust: Education is a cooperative, collaborative activity where process is as important as product.

  3. Optimism: People possess relatively untapped potential in all areas of worthwhile human endeavor.

  4. Intentionality: Safe schools are best realized by creating and maintaining inviting places, policies, processes, and programs and by people who are intentionally inviting with themselves and others, personally and professionally.

…Rather than relying on one program, one policy, or one process, Invitational Education addresses the total zeitgeist, the spirit within a school. It has a wider focus of application than traditional efforts to make schools safe. It is concerned with more than grades, attendance, academic achievement, discipline, test scores, and even student self-esteem. It is concerned with the skills of becoming a decent and productive citizen in a democratic society.”

I came away from IAIE’s conference renewed. Renewed with a fresh vision of what we’re doing right. From talking to Hong Kong representatives who are implementing IAIE’s mission in their own communities (with great success) to singing with Peter Yarrow of the 1960s folk music trio Peter, Paul and Mary. Peter is founder and president of Operation Respect, a nonprofit working to create respectful, safe, and compassionate climates for learning.

Peter’s vision for more tranquility and equality in our nation’s classrooms and visionary songs made me pause and think. His passion was contagious as he performed his new song, dedicated to the Dalai Lama. The song puts a poem the Dalai Lama wrote to music. Peter traveled to Japan to sing it to His Holiness on Nov. 11.

Be it CEI’s mission to support and uplift schools, CEI’s Heart-Centered Education (compassion, courage, confidence, consciousness, and community) research area, the Invitational Education framework, Peter’s music, the clarion call for our times has a common theme: facilitate  and invite a positive vision through education for our students and the larger community. In the wake of continued tragic school violence, the need to consciously promote more light into an often traumatic world seems self-evident.

Inviting schools can provide that light’”a global refuge.


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