Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Best Version of School, Revisited

Yesterday I wrote a post about what helps me get grounded when thinking about school reform--imagining my daughters' experience.

My husband, who supports my ideas but does not live in my head, sent me this comment:

"I’m all for your view of education, but I think that your three NO’s are going to lose support, rather than gain it.

Vague statements like that can quickly be damaged with examples that contradict those statements—“Biology can be looked up on the internet, but my daughter is going to be a doctor”…”Some good learning may exist outside of school, but what I learned in school helped me become a doctor….”

I’d suggest always inserting an example after each NO, so that people better understand your views.  Otherwise, statements like your NO,NO, NO sound more like the angry parent than the hard working educator.  Examples will make your blog worth reading…"

Thanks for this feedback.  Here's my revised version...

Do I want them sitting at their desks doing work other people deem important?  No.  But I DO want them hard at work learning how to think, how to analyze, how to appreciate different perspectives.  I DO want them to have choice in how they learn and how they share what they have learned.  And I DO want them to learn to assess their own strengths and areas for improvement.  I want them to be able to handle any academic challenge with confidence and competence.  I DO want them to have the support of talented teachers who can nurture and guide them as learners and people.

Do I want them learning content that is readily available to them all the time?  No.  But I DO want them learning all of this (and more!):

Creativity and Innovation
Using knowledge and understanding to create new  ways of thinking in order to find solutions to new problems and to create new products and services.
Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
Applying higher order thinking to new problems and issues, using appropriate reasoning as they effectively analyze the problem and make decisions about the
most effective ways to solve the problem.

Communicating effectively in a wide variety of forms and contexts for a wide range of purposes and using multiple media and technologies.

Working with others respectfully and effectively to create, use and share knowledge, solutions and innovations.

Information Management
Accessing, analyzing, synthesizing, creating and sharing information from multiple sources.

Effective Use of Technology
Creating the capacity to identify and use technology efficiently, effectively and ethically as a tool to access, organize, evaluate and share information

Career and Life Skills
Developing skills for becoming self-directed, independent learners and workers who can adapt to change, manage projects, take responsibility for their work, lead others and produce results.

Cultural Awareness
Developing cultural competence in working with others by recognizing and respecting cultural differences and work with others from a wide range of cultural and social backgrounds.

Beers, Sue Z.  “21st Century Skills: Preparing Students for THEIR Future.”  21st
Century Skills.

Do I want them doing work that does not exist outside of school? No.  But I do want them learning how to make, create, innovate, experiment, reconfigure, organize, explore, imagine...

I want school to be a training ground for the work that will be expected of them when school is over.  Where working together, tackling challenges, using resources, and inventing new possibilities will equal success and fulfillment.

I hope this sounds more positive and less grumpy and stubborn! 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Best Version of School

This weekend I was lucky enough to have lunch with a group of supportive, like-minded educators and friends who helped recharge my passion about making school different.  It's gotten a bit lost this year at work amid administrative changes, a new teaching load, and the general business of getting my job done day-to-day.  Not only did the hours I spent with this tribe reinvigorate me, but it also helped me crystallize my mission:

Simply, what do I want school to be like for my daughters? 

Do I want them sitting at their desks doing work other people deem important?  Do I want them learning content that is readily available to them all the time?  Do I want them doing work that does not exist outside of school? 

No, no, and no.  That's it. 

A school revolution can happen if educators and policy makers think like PARENTS OF TODAY'S CHILDREN, parents who understand that the world is different now and that it will continue to change.

There's nothing more powerful than an angry parent demanding more, demanding better for his or her child.  It's time to demand the right thing.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

CAFE comes to the Lower School

Last year our K, 1, and 2 teams began using the Daily Five as a structure for our reading instruction time. It went so well that we pushed it to third grade this year. Our kids love the language and structure of the Daily 5; they feel pride in their developing stamina and their growing right to choose a spot to work/the work to do in that spot. They can explain each I-chart. They know what to do when it's time to get working.

This year we've taken the leap into the CAFE--the "what" of reading instruction. Our K-4 teachers have all committed to teaching specific comprehension, accuracy, fluency, and expanded vocabulary skills. They've each set up their boards and have begun their one-one reading assessments. Some have even begun goal-setting with individuals. I've heard from several teachers so far that the kids are digesting the strategies and are eager to show how well they can use them. What a joy to walk from room to room on the two floors of our lower school and see/hear/feel kids gaining confidence as readers. Thank you, Gail and Joan, for providing this excellent menu and all of its support. 

Here are a few of the CAFE boards I saw this morning (ranging from k-4 but in no particular order):