I haven’t felt inspired to blog in a while, but a number of things have happened in the last few days that have given me much cause for thought…
I spoke in an earlier blog, about my new principal this year – how he has been encouraging us to slow down and focus on process as opposed to content – to go deeper instead of wider. I was honest about my skepticism, ready to see another educational fad come and go, and was rather frustrated to be “put through the hoops” as we jumped onto the latest gimmick.
I wish I could spend the next few paragraphs bragging about how right I was.
Let’s just say the good thing about my skepticism is that it forced me to educate myself on the subject. My participation in the PLP (Powerful Learning Practice) program this year taught me to develop and keep up with an RSS reader. I need to be honest and admit this… I had no idea how ignorant I was of current practices and theories in education. I think as teachers, we just “do our thing” year after year, and figure if it has worked in the past, why change? But do we really look at whether it has worked?
My principal has also provided some interesting insight from folks like Alfie Kohn (www.alfiekohn.org), Chip Wood (www.yardsticks4-14.com), information from the book Best Practice, Today’s Standards for Teaching and Learning in America’s Schools,
and the Responsive Classroom program (www.responsiveclassroom.org). All of this has been enlightening, challenging, and frankly, overwhelming.
In a recent faculty meeting, we discussed grades. We talked about how to provide authentic instruction, how to focus on the progress of each child, and finally how best to assess our elementary students. These open discussions enable us to throw the big questions out there, and talk through them as a team. One of our biggest concerns as an independent college preparatory school is the effect on our students as they move forward into middle school and high school.
Today I read the New York Times article on the upcoming redesign of the A.P. Program. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/09/education/edlife/09ap-t.html?pagewanted=1&_r=2
The revised exams will focus on application of concepts and critical thinking skills as opposed to memorizing huge amounts of content. This Connected Principals blog addresses the article as well – (http://www.connectedprincipals.com/archives/2250)
The fact of the matter is this:
As Bob Dylan sang, “The Times, They Are A-Changin’”
Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you
Is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’.
Do you want to be the last on board? It’s no longer about the content. If we refocus our teaching and our students become strong critical thinkers and problem solvers, they will have no problem applying these vital skills to every subject area in middle school, high school, college, and beyond.