Jenny Finn is one of our fantastic contributing authors who recently wrote a piece, "Transform a Person, Transform Culture" for our August issue of En Root. Jenny is also the Co-Founder of the Springhouse Community School, a learning community in Virginia dedicated to holistic education through project-based learning. As a bold leader in the industry, Jenny has spent time out west and on the east coast transforming our approach to education.
We couldn't be more delighted to have gotten the chance to interview her, learning all about her amazing work and the values that drive her. Happy reading.
Give us your best pitch: Explain what you do in the education industry and why it matters.
Springhouse Community School envisions a culture of lifelong learning where people feel true belonging to themselves, their community, and the Earth. Our mission is to re-imagine the purpose and practice of education by fostering the holistic development in youth and adults. In a culture that fosters the myth of separation, Springhouse is an inter-generational learning community seeking to grow a new possibility that reminds us that we are connected. To transform the ecological challenges we face, the world needs the gifts we are born with, which remain hidden, until they are invited forth into the light. Springhouse invites the gifts within a person forward and is a model of what education can be.
At OutGrowth, we are committed to giving access. Tell us what access means to you in, and how you achieve access in education.
To me, Springhouse addresses access in education by having courageous and and difficult conversations. Being aware of the obstacles present in education (and society), then talking about them in community in holistic ways that move toward the complexity, confusion, and pain of the lack of access, is the first step we take toward a more equitable, just, and compassionate community and world.
Explain a time when you were impacted by or had an impact within the education industry. Why was this experience significant?
I was hired by an elementary school in Colorado to lead activities that strengthened the emotional and social health of students. I was leading a exercise that invited students to explore their emotional landscape in relatively benign ways through movement. They received prompts like "Move like it's your birthday. Move like your little sister just knocked over your blocks." When I invited them to "Move like their goldfish just died" within a minute or less, half of the 3rd grade students were sobbing. I could not believe it. I took them back to math class crying and felt at a loss. The next day, I spoke with the principal, who shared that though he valued my work, he could not have it at the school in that way because the system could not handle it. We both sat in his office knowing that this work was needed, but knew that the educational system could not support the full range of human emotion. I continued working there but with a different focus. It was hard. I felt motivated to do something different for our young people after that experience.
How did this experience change the course of your life, your career or your outlook?
We need places where we can practice be the human beings that we are. We need to know how to be vulnerable, what to do with our anger, and how to work together in community to be in service to a better world. I had no idea at that time that I would co-found a community school, but I can see why I have after an experience like this, along with many other similar experiences I have had like this unfortunately.
What would you say are the top three most important steps that students and young professionals can take today in their educational journeys to build the most important career competencies?
First, I would like to expand beyond the word career. I am mostly interested in whole, inspired human beings who are doing meaningful and purposeful work in the world. The first step to this is knowing one's place, like the literal place that a person lives and the community that they live with.
The second step, know thyself. Know your gifts as much as you know what gets in the way for you in offering those gifts. Being comfortable in your own skin takes a lot of courage.
Finally, hold on to wonder and curiosity. Do everything you can to cultivate it in your life.
Given your current passion for education, if you could go back in time and give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?
Find a mentor. Fast. Find an adult who inspires you and ask a lot of questions to that person. I would also tell the younger me that she is not alone and has a purpose. Do everything you can to stay close to it.
What are some words of wisdom that you would offer students exploring the possibility of an immersive experience as a component of their education?
Do it! Find opportunities where you can practice being a whole human being, exploring your curiosities and learning from others you admire. Also, build and rely on community and become better friends with yourself. An immersive experience, depending on its values and curriculum, could invite all of this forth.
What is your favorite quote?
"Be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid." - Basil King
What's next? What are your next steps toward growth in 2019?
Springhouse Community School is deepening and growing! We will be moving into a new location this summer and we are very excited about that. Speaking of immersive experiences, we are welcoming our first resident in our Well Residency for adults. This person will have the opportunity to learn and grow in the context of a 7th-12th grade school. They will have the opportunity to experiment in a living laboratory that is re-imagining the purpose and practice of education. We are so excited and feel grateful everyday for the community that we are and the support and generosity that continues to move toward us. Thank you for the opportunity to share more about myself and Springhouse on this blog!
Jenny Finn holds a Ph.D. in Sustainability Education from Prescott College and a master’s degree in Social Work from Colorado State University. She is a social entrepreneur and, for the past twenty years, has been committed to creating healthy culture by starting with an unwavering commitment to her own personal growth and transformation. Jenny’s research, mentoring, and teaching invites people to deepen the relationship they have with themselves in order to be more resilient and of clearer and more compassionate service to the world around them.