Jane's Pocket Change: Fellowship

The Progressive Education Lab (PEL), founded by four school partners (CSW, Putney, Unquowa and Calhoun) back in 2011, is a wonderful fellowship program that brings novice teachers into the profession. PEL’s mission is to make the fellows “agents of change.” For me, one of the great professional delights I’ve experienced during my time here at CSW has been helping to establish the PEL program and to ensure its ongoing growth to serve young progressive educators beginning their careers.

This past weekend, the PEL program underwent its next evolution and shifted its partner schools, welcoming to the program Miquon and Crefeld, both in Philadelphia, and saying goodbye to Unquowa and Calhoun. While we will miss our collaboration with Unquowa and Calhoun, it is very exciting to enter new ground with Miquon and Crefeld, two outstanding progressive institutions. As I toured these two new PEL schools with Putney head Emily Jones to begin our work with Susannah (Miquon head) and George (Crefeld head), I reflected on the meaning of the terms, “fellows” and “fellowship.”

We refer to our PEL students as “fellows,” a familiar term in academic circles. While traditionally thought of as male, the word essentially means “peer,” or at least someone similar to you/on a similar footing or status. To me, there is a nice welcome feel to it, similar to “hail-fellow-well-met,” which, while used as an adjective, has always struck my ears as a greeting given to an equal. The four PEL fellows travel together in the first year of the program, spending more or less equal time at the four schools, working with mentor teachers (another group of fellows).

As for “fellowship,” it, too, has connotations in academia—holding a named fellowship is an honor, usually accompanied by funding. In the context of the PEL program and our CSW community, I am thinking particularly about “fellowship” in terms of the friendly aspect of association, the congenial sharing of similar interests and goals. While visiting the two new PEL schools, Emily and I agreed that we felt an immediate fellowship with their heads—we saw their work, their spaces, their students and their colleagues and it felt familiar, reassuring.

It’s a good word, fellowship. It should not be taken for granted. And while we are sometimes invited into it, I hope that those of us who are the hosts see and appreciate the value of each member of the community who is part of that fellowship. Our CSW community provides such fellowship through sustained connections and the warmth of care.

So, I say to all of you in CSW’s realm: “hail-fellow-well-met!”
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