Tag Archive | edreform

No More Boxed Lunches!


I spent a while today reading a paper that Will Richardson mentioned in his latest blog. It’s called “The Right to Learn: Identifying Precedents for Sustainable Change“.

The paper talked about the need for a significant change in the essential framework of our schools, allowing learning to be self-directed, and encouraging students to follow their interests and passions.

I thought about the nature of the young child. When we were young, we played wonderful, imaginative games. We taught school to our friends or stuffed animals, pretended to be firefighters or astronauts, played doctor, put on shows where we sang or danced for our friends and family, or put a variety of seeds and plants in a bucket and made magic potions or stews. We imagined what it would be like to teach, be on stage, cook gourmet meals, and heal the sick. But tragically, this period of exploration is short-lived. By third grade (if not sooner) we have squashed that wonderful creativity that came so naturally. I could cry when I see my third graders walking around the playground bored, claiming there’s nothing to do. What have we done??

Have you ever asked a teenager what their interests or passions are? How many graduating seniors do you know that have no idea what they want to do with their lives, or what they want to study? All they know is what has been fed to them at school – They have never had the opportunity to explore or try different things, so they have no idea what their interests or passions are!

In our current system we are delivering every child an education. This amounts to feeding them a boxed lunch education that is the same for every child regardless of talent, ability, personality, interest, or background. Do we leave any time or opportunity for them to focus on the things that interest them? If we don’t give students this “right to learn”, we shouldn’t be surprised when they reach high school or college and have no idea what they want to do with their lives…

The world has changed. Facts and information are available 24/7 with a quick Internet search. Our students must know how to channel this technology, and become creative, innovative problem solvers that can make significant contributions to the new world. The boxed lunch has gone bad and is no longer nourishing. The time for change has come.

My question is this – How do we change the current framework of our schools to meet the needs of our students? What can schools do to start moving in this direction? How do we bring back the freedom to think, explore, and discover?

21st Century Revelation – It’s Not About Me…


The other day I was thinking about what an incredibly different year this has been for me. I didn’t make a career change, a school change, a grade level change, or even a room change. So why on earth has this year been unlike any other? For the first time, my job isn’t only about MY students, MY lesson plans, or MY goals. Friends, I know it’s shocking (you can only imagine how hard it was to swallow), but it’s not all about ME!

All joking aside… I feel like I’ve had a 21st century revelation. My participation in Powerful Learning Practice (PLP) has shown me the power of collaboration. This has been an intoxicating experience! I’ll admit it – I started out a “lurker” as Will Richardson would say… I developed my PLN, and started reading blogs, tweets, and ning posts. But I remember Will wagging his index finger at us at the PLP Kick-Off in Dallas way back in September, telling us it wasn’t fair just to lurk – We had to contribute. What did I have to contribute??

Well here we are, six months later, and I feel like maybe I’m finally getting it. I’m getting a ton of good resources and ideas from teachers all over the globe – but I’m not sitting on them! I think we’re called upon to be channels for this information. I’m always on the lookout for things my colleagues can use. My boss was looking for information on a Digital Citizenship curriculum, so I’ve been sending things her way when I find them. Today she put out a request to our team to find instructional materials for the recent events in Japan. My division head has encouraged us to learn more about reading and writing workshops. Our PLP team is looking for web 2.0 tools to share that will help teachers integrate technology and really make a difference in instruction… The list goes on.

So what does this mean? It means I’m spending a pretty serious chunk of time each day cruising my Twitter feed and reading blogs!


But it also means that I’m not only learning and hopefully improving my impact in the classroom… Hopefully I’m serving a greater good, and giving back to those in my PLN that have given so much to me. I’m more likely to ask a teacher if I can observe a lesson, pick someone’s brain on a new idea, or ask advice on a student situation. I’m not afraid to admit I don’t know it all and consider myself fortunate to work with incredibly talented colleagues from whom there is much I can learn. Together we are so much stronger than we are alone!

The Times, They Are A-Changin’

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.