what can the Air Element teach us about education (and ourselves!)?

episode 56

Sarah Pottle

created by

TRANSCRIPT for the Introduction
Welcome to the Regenerative Ed Podcast, where we are using our creative power as teachers, administrators, and other education professionals to say, hey, listen up everyone! We DO NOT WANT extractive systems built on industrial, colonial models. We want ones that prioritize life and connection, not profit and extraction. And here on this podcast, the extractive system we’re talking about that’s been modeled after industry is education. Here, we’re imagining what’s next through conversations with all sorts of educational professionals, conversations with folks outside of education, and through deep dive workshop-in-a-podcast-type episodes that that give us inspiration for modeling systems after something outside of the industrial paradigm.

Last week we opened this deep dive workshop-in-a-podcast series with a brief introduction, and I gave a little homework to simply enjoy the breeze on your face somewhere. Were you able to? Were you able to sink into it? If you weren’t, now’s a great time to crack a window or walk outside while you’re listening to this to get one of the most familiar sensations of air– experiencing wind– as we talk about the air element today, including the science, stories, symbols and more of air, and … here’s the twist… talk about what lessons there might be for us as humans redesigning education for a new paradigm. And, you know, air is a good one to kick it off with. Because, if there was ever a time where things feel a little, up in the air, now is that time, right?

We’ll get into that in a bit.

The first time I ever heard of the “air element” was through the cartoon captain planet– i’m probably dating myself here. It was the first time I ever thought of air as an element. Maybe it rings a different bell for you. Maybe you’re coming at it from a more historical perspective, as the ancient greeks dating all the way back to 450 BC, records show, believed that matter was made up of four elements: air, fire, earth, and water. Maybe it reminds you of something a little more mystical or cosmic like astrology or something. Or, maybe, all it brings to mind for you, simply, is the air we breathe. And we’ll talk a lot more about that today.

t’s as pragmatic or as mystical as we want to name it. To me, it’s simply observation mixed with curiosity. What might it teach us to dig into something here for some wisdom about systems? What might it mean to not think we know everything, and allow ourselves to learn things from places we might not have otherwise learned them in the systems we exist in?

I’m going to ask some reflection questions in a moment that you could literally ask in all parts of your life– you could ask yourself these questions as a parent, as a learner, as a neighbor, as a household manager, as a musician, as a painter, as a lawn care provider. This is a podcast about the education system but, see, the thing is we have been steeped in an extractive society because it’s based on a global extractive economy, and so the default mode of our systems follow an extractive model. So, what we’re talking about here with education, right, while some of the details are specific, you’ll find that you can apply what we’re talking about it to industrial agriculture, industrial medical complex, and so much more. When we start to look at blockages and boxes and stubbornness, we see that these are features of extractive industrial complexes. So, where do we move to? We look for answers OUTSIDE OF the industrial complex.

For example, I am not looking for a total solution for education from the tech sector. Why? Because, precisely, it’s a SECTOR of the economy. It’s a part of this recently designed global economic system– “Recent” in terms of human history and in terms of life on our planet in general. Can tech help? Sure! But it’s not the foundation, and it will be harmful if it itself is extractive. Likewise, let’s not look at reimagining solutions for education from analyzing test scores imagined underneath this system by corporations in the education industrial complex.

So, then, where do we look to for models? There is actually ENDLESS inspiration, if we look to the living world.

That's why, last year, we did a whole series on patterns in the living world and what it means for education. That’s why we have talked about the three states of water and what it has to do with education, why we talk about living things dying and rotting, and what it has to do with education. Why we’ve chatted with birth-workers and farmers and indigenous people about education. We’ve ventured into these realms precisely BECAUSE we are looking for observations OUTSIDE OF THE INDUSTRIAL, CAPITALIST COMPLEXES to see what we can learn for how to set up systems of reciprocity and care. Education is surely a system of care. Care is why we are here. Let’s honor living systems work.

And, while it’s important to highlight what’s not working so we have a good grasp of understanding, let’s also move towards what could be a new model for a new system. What COULD work.

And, you know, what we’ll talk about here today and in the next three episodes about elements isn’t what I’ve spent my career studying. I have, though, spent my career sharing my observations, experiences, and the connections about ways we relate to all sorts of living systems and what that means for remodeling systems. So, some of my observations will resonate and some won’t. Some of this will be for you and some of it won’t. We’re actually talking about that in Part 3 here today. Take what works, and leave the rest. Use these ideas as a springboard for your own personal growth, consider them in your professional day-to-day, tussle with them with your PLCs, whatever works for you.

Now, onto part one.

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