Follow the Yellow Brick Road…
Have we reached the limits of our traditional school system’s capacity to deal with the diversity of learners that come into our schools today?
I stayed late after school yesterday, not a typical occurrence on a Friday, but there was something going on and the principal and I had some important responsibilities. The thing that was going on? Our annual spring musical performance is into final rehearsals and we were helping set up the lights and sound system.
This year’s performance is a rendition of the classic Wizard of Oz and it is a big deal! Of our school population of 500 kids, I would say at least 80 to 90 students, from grades 3 to 8, have had some level of involvement in this production, as well as dozen staff members and parents.
For a few moments yesterday, I stood in the school gym and just watched. Every where I looked people were working and learning, creating, collaborating, laughing and solving problems. It was busy, messy, and far from perfect; and it was amazing. If this is school, I wonder why school isn’t like this all the time? Why do we categorize the activities and projects that actually engage teachers, parents and children to create and learn as ‘extra-curricular’ and call the standardized, competitive tasks that we foist upon children as ‘learning’? It looked like a whole lot of real learning was going on, none of which will likely make it onto a report card.
So Saturday afternoon @gcouros tweeted out a blog entry that Will Richardson had written for the Huffington Post and I followed the link. The blog post is titled Have Our Schools Reached Their Limits? In the post, Will writes about shifting away from a focus each student’s right to an education (a product) towards the each students right to learn. I’ll leave to you to click on and read the post, it certainly made me think.
What I connected with as I read was what I had witnessed the day before in our gym; a diverse group of adults and children, from a wide range of grade levels all working to create something they valued, and learning in a highly personalized manner. Again, why do we call this the ‘extra’? Why is it that school can’t look like this more often? What mindset is driving the agenda that we currently see informing the structure and allocation of resources in our schools?
If we were to pull back the curtain, I wonder if we’d see that the many of the ‘truths’ and ‘expectations’ of our current school system are, just like in L. Frank Baum’s classic, a hollow mirage of smoke and mirrors?