So an educator friend of mine spent the better part of last year traveling around the world visiting schools, in the hopes of identifying the innovations, the pedagogical approaches, and the educational strategies that are truly engaging students and driving student learning forward in today’s ever changing world. As you can imagine, he was inspired by much of what he saw, and in many instances hopeful and optimistic about the future of education. He called it the best year of his professional life but interestingly enough, also the most depressing. You see, although he found many, many schools across the globe that are genuinely pushing innovation, and taking creative risks for their students, and empowering all kids to lead their own learning, he came back a little overwhelmed and saddened by the traditional and industrial models that still shape our global educational landscape. In a recent conversation with him earlier this month, he remarked that something drastic needs to happen in education because we have absolutely “nothing left to lose”…
I started thinking about that, and honestly, I’m not sure that I agree with him…I think we have plenty left to lose, particularly regarding the future of our young people, and I’d like to reframe that comment and suggest that it’s actually the opposite…we have “everything to win”. At the heart of his disappointment was not the lack of effort by schools to redesign their buildings and teaching spaces, there was plenty of that. Lots of open, futuristic, and collaborative building designs, new and inspiring maker spaces and purposeful incorporations to the natural world, and a tremendous amount of thought that went into shaking up the “look” of a traditional school. In that respect he was very, very encouraged. He came back discouraged however, because what he saw happening inside those school designs and spaces, in the classrooms, and at the heart of what matters in the day to day approaches to teaching and learning, was very much 1982.
Like Dylan Wiliam says, the hardest thing to do in education is to get teachers and leaders to change their day to day practice. We all know what the research says, and in most international schools we now have access to the resources and the spaces to engage and personalize for all of our kids, but often times when the door shuts and the day begins, it’s easy to revert back to what we’ve always done…what’s comfortable, and what we’ve gotten very good at. Schools and educators across the globe continue to do what they’ve always done because of habit, but it sure doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do.
On the heels of a fantastic weekend with Carol Ann Tomlinson here at ASP, and with the new school year staring us down, I want to encourage all of us to look critically at how we’re engaging our students, and how much of our approach is the same as it was a few years ago. How much “innovation” is actually making its way into our lesson and unit planning? What opportunities are we giving to our students to really and truly own their learning and to lead their own educational journey? How are we setting up our classroom spaces, and what opportunities are we giving students to showcase their learning…is it a one-size fits all or have we looked at our curricular approach and assessment through the lens of meeting all students where they are, and moving them forward as individual and unique learners?
I want us all to feel empowered to shake it up this year and to take some risks…to try out some new strategies that will push us out of our comfort zones and will make us feel a little uneasy. We have an opportunity this year to move past the traditional…the comfortable…the easy, and to challenge ourselves and our colleagues to stretch the limits of what’s possible with our kids. Then when we do, we have the moral imperative to share and to model and to collaborate so that we all can learn and stretch together…no more siloed approaches to education, we’re past that. Anyway, I want to wish you all a tremendous 2017-18 school year, and I truly hope it’s the best year of your professional lives. I guarantee that if we take some risks, shake things up, and truly make an effort to change some habits, then it will be a year that will be worthy of our kids. Like I said, it’s not that we have nothing to lose…we very much have everything to win! Have a fantastic opening week everyone and remember to be great for our kids and good to each other.
Quote of the Week…
Curiosity is a delicate little plant that, aside from stimulation, stands mainly in need of freedom
– Albert Einstein
Interesting and Useful Articles –
Innovation in Schools –
TED Talks Worth Watching –
Great Educational Podcasts –