Kids First Social Network

7 Mar

Let’s face it schools are changing. 

Rarely do we walk into a classroom and see the teacher reciting information, and the children sitting quietly in their rows taking notes so that they can remember the content. 

Chris Lehmann from the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia writes …. 

There are those in the educational and political landscape these days who would dismantle the entire institution of school, and those people would use the tools we love so much to argue for the irrelevance of school itself. It can be a seductive argument especially when so many schools frustrate us with the degree to which they underserve children. However, the fundamental purpose of public school — the idea that create physical spaces that are committed to educating a nation — is a good one.

There’s no question that how we conceive of school must change, but the why we have them remains as vital today as it ever has been. In an age where segmentation of markets, segmentation of society, keep people apart from those who think differently, who look differently, who live differently than they do, schools bring us together to learn from and with each other.

There is a subtle and yet vital difference in the fundamental role of school in the modern world. For the past 100 years, in most American schools, the school was important because it was where the information was… it was where the teacher was. The classroom was important because it was where people came together to get the information from the teacher. And while this is an oversimplification of the pedagogy of the past 100 years, it is, sadly, an accurate description of the dominant paradigm in American education. It is the Prussian model that Horace Mann brought back from Europe and instituted across the country with great success.

And let’s be clear – this model educated a nation with greater success than the world had ever seen – and so it is understandable to see why it has been so hard to let go of the old vision of what schools look like. Much of we see with the “No excuses” charter school model, No Child Left Behind and other current “reform” movements seem like an attempt to recapture the hazily remembered nostalgic days when students sat and patiently absorbed information from caring teachers. But to quote the song, “the good old days weren’t all that good and tomorrow ain’t as bad as it seems.”
So if the reason to come together in a classroom isn’t because the teacher is there to dispense the knowledge, why come together in a classroom?

It’s because that’s where we come together to learn.

Let’s never forget that.

A vibrant classroom, filled with active learners is a wonderful place that deserves to be nurtured. Learning can happen in many ways, and not all moments of learning have to be social, but equally, not all learning moments should be solitary as well. All over the world, there are classrooms where students learn together with caring, dedicated teachers. In these places, the social learning means that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. It is the promise of these classrooms, these schools that we must grasp onto.

And they are not as rare we think.

In every school, there are teachers who make the classroom into something special. They listen to students, push them to reach beyond what they knew their grasp could be. There are students who look forward to class those classes so that they be in deep learning environments. And in all those places, the learning goes far beyond acquisition of knowledge and skills and content. In all those places, there is meaning and wisdom and passion.

And at schools like High Tech High in San Diego and MET Academy in Providence, RI and Science Leadership Academy, students and teachers and administrators have come together to build entire communities that learn this way. And there are many, many more schools that have build powerful learning communities out there. We just have to do a better job of looking for them.

That is what school can be. As a nation, we can imagine many different models for school, but the fundamental idea that we build places where all children can come together to learn remains one of the best ideas we’ve ever had as a society.

We shouldn’t lose it. We just have to make sure our schools reflect the time in which we live.

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