Stories, Learning & Place

Thursday, June 15, 2006

About Michael L. Umphrey
   Gardens are a form of autobiography. Sydney Eddison

I live in a garden. At various times, it includes lilies, peonies, and clematis, as well as knapweed, aphids and holes dug by my son’s dogs. But it is a garden, part nature and part enchantment.

My newest book, The Power of Community-Centered Education: Teaching as a Craft of Place, has recently been published by Rowman & Littlefield. It’s based on my twelve years of work as director of the Montana Heritage Project.

Right now I’m teaching in Polson, Montana, in a classroom that looks out over Flathead Lake. Having just finished a book, my mind naturally wanders over the possibilities of what I might work on next.

I’ve been reading a lot of poetry, which helps me get out of all the little boxes working on programs and policies tend to create. I’m especially enjoying the later work of Auden and Eliot. Early on they saw modernity clearly and thought anew. Poetry is still my first love. My first book of poems, The Lit Window, was published by the Cleveland State University Poetry Center, and my second, The Breaking Edge, won the Merriam-Frontier Award and was published by the University of Montana.

I’m at a stage in life where all sorts of earlier decisions and commitments are paying off. Many days include visits from grandchildren who understand correctly that disenchantment is a mistake.

They think everyone lives in a garden.

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The Power of Community-Centered Education: Teaching as a Craft of Place is now available. Here are excerpts from advance reviews:

“Umphrey’s book is part philosophical speculation, part sociological inquiry, part how-to guide for interested educators. Its depth and intellectual substance propel a reader through its pages, looking for more fresh insights and examples of positive educational practice. His message...fills an important gap in contemporary discussions about what Americans should seek from public schools. What is being lost in our preoccupation with accountability and assessment are more fundamental elements of what it means to be a good human being and those elements are all tied into relationships with those around us and the places that support our lives. Gregory Smith, professor, Graduate School of Education and Counseling, Lewis & Clark
College

“I am so impressed with this wonderful book about teaching and place...It has been observed that 90% of our knowledge is folklore (learned by experience) and this is the knowledge that we will pass on to the next generation. Unfortunately our educational curricula, testing requirements, and bureaucratic busywork have kept teachers and students in a knowledge-restricting straight-jacket. The Power of Community-Centered Education gives us a blueprint for breaking out of these constraints to give teachers and students a way back to real experience-based community-centered learning. Peggy A. Bulger, director, American Folklife Center, The Library of Congress, Washington, DC

The Power of Community-Centered Education is a passionate and personal testimonial based on real experiences in education...[Umphrey] brings his profound insights on education and community together in a treatise that outlines how to create a successful model for 21st century education. This book should be a “must” for all adults who are educating children and young adults...Umphrey’s experiences as the director of the Montana Heritage Project for the past ten years have resulted in a unique and important view of the way that we learn, and the way that we construct our lives from this learning.” Paddy B. Bowman, coordinator, National Network for Folk Arts in Education, Alexandria, VA

Publisher’s blurb:

We face an epidemic of disengagement in American high schools as our institutions fail to offer meaningful and relevant ways to connect curriculum with students’ emerging life stories. These students do not see how schooling, as it is presently constituted, is important to their own developing identities. One solution to this problem is to organize the curriculum around the concept of community and to link the study of abstract concepts and principles to their manifestations in the places that students know and care about (local history, shared traditions, civic pride, etc.).

The Power of Community-Centered Education provides psychological, sociological, historical, and philosophical insights into why community works so well as an organizing principle for high school. The book concludes with a call to action for all agencies and institutions that have public outreach programs to consider how they assist in building “education-centered communities” that support the work of high schools by offering research opportunities and scaffolding to secondary education.

You can order The Power of Community-Centered Education: Teaching as a Craft of Place from Amazon.

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Posted by Michael L Umphrey on 06/15 at 05:52 AM
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©2006 Michael L. Umphrey
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