Take Back our Schools. Hmmm. What Would that Look Like?

It would look like all who would call themselves educators taking the Socratic Oath.

Adults who care about children need to give to the system what is the system’s and to the child what is the child’s. School systems are bound by their systemness. Devotion to standards, measurable outcomes, public accountability and so on are necessary cornerstones of a public system committed to serving all the people. Arguments about the shape of those cornerstones are distractions from conversations by parents and teachers in the business of taking back schools to serve the needs of each individual child.

In my Children’s Bill of Rights children have a right to be treated as if they are already—by age 5—experienced authors, storytellers, researchers, problem-solvers, inventors, scientists, artists, athletes, friends and collaborators. This is what it means to respect their humanity. Continue reading


The Willful Child

Janet Lansbury showed her stuff again this week with her post about parenting willful two-year-olds.

A battle of wills with a child is one of the classic challenges of parents and teachers. In my first few years of teaching I had recurring dreams about students who simply refused to do what I was asking them to do. Still today I occasionally have that nightmare even though I haven’t had the problem in real life for decades. The powerlessness can be traumatic, I guess.

Anyway, Janet gives great advice to parents of a willful child, but what I loved most was this photo of one. I have rarely seen a face so eloquent. So much so that this week I decided just to put it out there and invite everyone to join a Caption Contest.

How would you caption this photo, please comment with your caption. (We can all vote for the winner next week.)

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This March on Washington, Where’s the Dream?

At the end of this month there will be a  “Save our Schools March” on Washington. Unlike the 1963 March on Washington, there is no clear, shared vision of what it would look like if the desired changes happened. What would it look like if teachers and parents “took back the schools?”

Last month I published “Nine Lies about Academic Achievement that Parents and Teachers often Seem to Believe—but Don’t Really” in which I suggest that parents and other educators actually do know what we want. We want schools to graduate young people for the world as it is rather than for the industrial age.

The good news is, we know what those graduates should look like. Educators from Tony Wagner at Harvard to Linda Darling-Hammond at Stanford have identified the kinds of skills the world will require of our graduates: focusing, making connections, changing perspective, creating, making judgments, finding meaning, working with others, managing conflict, planning, taking on challenges, persevering, etc.

Citizens with these skills, however, will not come from whomever wins the big debates over testing, teachers, unions, accountability, privatization, vouchers, charter schools, and so on.

The great news is that the changes we want have already occurred in some schools for some students. Hundreds of schools across the country, both public and private, rich and poor, are learning communities whose cultures are focused on bringing out the best in each person, building their character and their competence, and growing their authority. They have abandoned the Pyramid Model. For these schools and the people in them the game of school is not the “Get the Right Answers Game” but the “Work with Others to Investigate Interesting Questions Game.” These schools are graduating young people for the future—any future.

I have met many of these young people. They are everything we say we want: confident, creative collaborators who can communicate, they can speak and write, and solve problems on their own and also know when to involve others, and they are not into measuring up but rather into making a difference. They are trying to find their own unique place in a very wide world, and seem quite ready for the dynamic never-ending process of self-reinvention.

Moreover, they aren’t all under 30. Apparently this change has been going on for at least a generation. A parent at one school was going on about how wonderful her daughter’s school was. He said: “I visited 15 different schools. I could tell in five minutes that I wanted this school.”

So, I asked, “Terrific, but what’s so great?” Continue reading

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Learning to Write: Seven Elements of a Learning Culture

How we teach an academic subject is important; the social context in which we teach it is equally critical.

One day in early February, Tanya, one of the teachers of the Fireflies, a preschool class of four-year-olds, came into the lounge at lunch time and said: “We have had an outbreak of writing in the Fireflies today.”

“Really, that’s great,” I said. “What do you mean?”

“Well, just that. It was a little epidemic.”

“Huh. Wow. What happened?” Continue reading

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Summer Fun: 12 Ways Parents Can Build a Mathematics Brain in Children

The most important thing we can do to ensure that our children speak mathematics when they are older is to make sure that mathematics is part of their world during their first 10 years of life. Continue reading

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