"You say I dream too big. I say you think too small."
Whoa. It's been a while. Time flies when you're raising a tiny human. I apologize in advance for the dusty writing. Here we go...
Today, I was fortunate enough to be able to join in a committee that I was part of last year for a meeting. Baby was napping. Husband taking the helm. I ran out of the house exhilarated by the idea of being in a room with all adults. I was pumped! You may be thinking I must have lost my marbles if I'm pumped to go sit in a board room at the end of a long day....but you don't understand how AWESOME these meetings are. Firstly, there is great food (very important for hungry educators). Secondly, the company is outstanding. The group of educators and administrators that gather for this committee are exceptional individuals. Articulate, thoughtful and humorous - the group that gathers for these meetings truly make it what it is. These meetings are real brain busters too - forcing us as teachers and administrators to ditch our excuses for 'what can't be' for what COULD be. I often leave these gatherings with my brain buzzing and feeling like I totally drank the kool-aid. It's intoxicating to be in a room filled with big dreamers and like-minded souls who dare to push on the archaic restraints that are holding us back in education. I love to put aside all of the excuses and just dream. What could it be like? Once you do that, the possibilities are truly endless. Tonight, we were asked to design our ideal school. I am still full on fantasizing about this question hours later so I figured I might as well share my dreams....
Dirt and Tech (my school vision) - They seem like opposing ideas but the BIG idea for my school is balance. I love the idea of student-directed education. If you think about it, that is who we ultimately work for: STUDENTS! Here is the reasoning behind my school design:
Outdoor Focused Education:
- There are so many reasons to get kids outside. Lower anxiety, better quality of life, lower rates of illness, etc. I really like this article to back outside schooling. When we get back to nature and feel part of a natural world, we become stewards of our environment as well. Nothing wrong with a little environmental activism training is there? David S. would not disagree.
- Taking the time to deeply comprehend a topic versus glossing over it and amping up quantity of information taught will help students develop a curious mind and autonomy over their own learning path. Bloom wrote about mastery learning and I think the most prevalent theme throughout his writing that spoke to me was that "mastery learning requires TIME". We need to give students time to truly grasp what it is we are trying to teach them. True, deep-rooted learning. It will be different for every student too and the environment in which students learn needs to accommodate this, as well as the educators guiding students.
- From a personal standpoint, I can say with 100% conviction that Project-Based learning radically altered the way I teach and the success my students felt in my classroom. Finding real-world, authentic problems or having students generate their own essential questions to find answers to was one of the BEST challenges I ever gave myself professionally. To see my journey with PBL check out my blog from last year (2014 and 2015 posts).
- This is my current research obsession. I work in jr. high mostly and often wonder why it seems my students lack emotional coping and resiliency skills necessary to navigate the emotional mine-field of puberty and secondary school. This article gives some insight into why we need to back away and let kids be kids. Play is important and we should not overlook the necessity of time set aside for unstructured play in junior/senior high school settings.
- Getting students into the community to serve, learn and observe will only pique their curiosity about the wider world and connect them to those around them. Also, volunteer opportunities should not be seen as a way to 'boost' resumes but as valuable learning opportunities for students to give back and develop the social-emotional skill set necessary for the 21st century. Job shadowing, visiting the elderly, and having community members as an integral part of a school will all help to personalize and build a village around students.
- Balance is key. Access should not be hindered, but boundaries and expectations for use should be modelled at all times. There are times to use the gift of technology, but there are also times we all need to disconnect and have down time. Taking technology to the next level such as video creation, photography, digital design, coding, gaming and game creation will all set a technology tone in the school.
Mrs. Katherine (Kate) Weber