Care, or empty chatter – what will it be?

It’s an hour before noon at work on Dec. 24th, and the few people left in the office today are slowly winding down before the office closes at lunchtime. In a cubicle down the hall several children brought in by their parents for the morning are giggling and having fun, while a little farther down the cutest puppy ever is yipping away in an editor’s office. Home-baked goods and chocolates are everywhere. Upstairs on the next floor a potluck lunch is starting and I’m about to head up for a final snack and some friendly chitchat with my colleagues in Open Learning.

Communities everywhere gather around the sharing of food

Communities everywhere gather around the sharing of food

I’ve always appreciated the sense of community in my workplace. Underlying the day-to-day routines I see a lot of collegial respect for learners wrapped around an overtly shared passion for making learning more accessible for everyone.   The atmosphere and ethos are something I never want to take for granted because they grow in communities based on respect, caring and trust. And trust is, seemingly paradoxically, a force that is both incredibly strong and binding, and incredibly fragile once it is broken. I remind myself that one can never understand the breadth of experiences that others have of the same place, and that is the scary thing. The break can happen anywhere, not just over there, but also over here, where we live. Right here. Today.

Against this setting I think about the deeply troubling events that have come to light in the media over the past week at the Dalhousie School of Dentistry, and sadly know that this is only one instance of something that is so much more widespread throughout our society. The sickening trauma to the women who are directly involved, and more widely among all who experience misogyny in countless ways in their day-to-day lives, seems unfathomable. And in this case, as in so many others, incalculable damage has already been done to many and will continue for the foreseeable future, with even more far-reaching effects to come. Communities of all kinds are left shattered.

All our programs, innovations, technologies, papers, presentations and everything else we do in ed tech and open education are empty chatter if we don’t understand that the core of our projects is respect, caring for one another, and building communities. We need to tell ourselves this, speak up boldly when we need to, stay alert, and continue to explore how we all can do our part to both nurture and model that core ethic among our ourselves and our students.

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