Creating conversational communities that drive change

Pat Badger

Discovering how harmony and dissonance enrich each other is at the heart of much of my professional life. Thanks to wonderful teachers at the College of Wooster and the University of Louisville, I found my voice in music. That discovery led me to a career in creating, sharing, educating, and promoting the arts as the Performing Arts Head at The Prairie School in Racine, Wisconsin, where I teach music and coordinate creative work in drama, music, and technical theater. I enjoy researching and conducting performances; but I am even more passionate about that moment in the creative process where things come together for the first time. It’s the ephemeral awakening within each student that inspires me.

As a trumpeter, my story was electrified when my high school homeroom teacher in Oak Park, Illinois, played a recording of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio for our inattentive advisory. I knew then that I had to study that music. And I’ve never forgotten my teacher’s courage in sharing his passion in a seemingly disinterested setting. I am a veteran orchestral musician and have performed in ensembles in the Milwaukee area, including groups ranging from baroque to klezmer, once as a nun and twice on horseback in a mounted band. I also have a passion for Renaissance instruments and coach recorder ensembles with my life partner each summer at The Clearing in Door County, Wisconsin.

For the last 35 years I have served the Independent Schools of the Central States as a board member and an accreditation evaluator. Working to crystallize the story of a school from enormous amounts of data and conversations with colleagues in a process that depends on collaboration is enriching every time.

I first learned of SEED as a result of a Wisconsin Independent School Educators conference where my job was to transport our speaker, Peggy McIntosh; instead, she metaphorically transported me. Enroute to her presentation, she gave me a commuter tutorial on the SEED Project as we drove. The Prairie School sent me to be trained at SEED 7 in 1993, where I felt a kind of homecoming, seeing the world in a way I never even knew I was looking for. I joined the National SEED Project staff in 1995 and currently serve as a Small Group Leader and Media Coordinator.

While I have had exceptional mentors, my most impactful teachers continue to be my students, past and present, who inspire, challenge, and deepen my belief in the collaborative and life-giving power that all our stories possess. SEED reminds me to listen more, to include everyone’s voice, and to trust the process of exchange and exploration. SEED reminds me that transformation of institutions and of myself (!) is possible. I think that when you teach, the story never ends. And the more I teach, learn, and live, the more I find SEED at the center of what I do.

— Cheryl Robinson, Supervisor, Office of Minority Achievement, Arlington Public Schools, Virginia

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