Aims and Goals are Different

If our goal is academic achievement, what is our aim?

In her New York Times piece “Playing to Learn” Susan Engel writes:

… educators should remember a basic precept of modern developmental science: developmental precursors don’t always resemble the skill to which they are leading. For example, saying the alphabet does not particularly help children learn to read. But having extended and complex conversations during toddlerhood does. Simply put, what children need to do in elementary school is not to cram for high school or college, but to develop ways of thinking and behaving that will lead to valuable knowledge and skills later on.

What does a school look like when it gets this right? Here is an example: Continue reading

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“A Home and a Heaven for Children”

Hearing that I am on a mission to change how America thinks about education Dawn Morris wrote: “What does your ideal school look like? Is it hands-on? Is it project based? Is there art? Is there music? I know you think learning should be fun, but what does a fun learning environment mean to you? Is it student directed? What does that mean? What assessments are there? Are there still standards?”

She concluded with: “Having been one of those teachers who left the public schools in frustration Continue reading

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Start Talking Entitled

Exactly two weeks ago, I met Greg Lippman for a cup of coffee and a muffin at Peet’s at 1295 The Alameda in San Jose. Greg’s mission is to help low-achieving students become the first in their family to graduate from a four-year college. Having already helped to launch one charter school which is now achieving this mission, his latest project is to create and sustain five new charter schools in Santa Clara county, Continue reading

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What is the Business of School?

Because Sara was home sick for a week in October of her eighth grade year, her parents bought software so that she could learn algebra at home. When she got back to school she discovered that she was ahead of the class. When she told her parents, they said, “Well, good. That gives you more time to spend on other homework.” And she did. However, she also kept taking her online course in algebra.

In class, since she was so far ahead of what the teacher was teaching, Continue reading

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Imbued with the Divine

Ned Hallowell invites us to a weekend with him and Rob Himburg (Click here for more information on the ADHD Enrichment Weekend.) and promises we will: 1) have fun, 2) learn a ton!, and 3) connect and feel inspired! I am sure it’s true, not because I know the teachers that well, but because someone who promises that, will probably deliver.

What if all teachers sent out a note to their students every Sunday afternoon promising Continue reading

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High Responsibility; Low Control

Genius is the axis of the spinning top that we call school. To keep great teachers in the business and get the test scores up we must spin on this axis. Increased reliance on tutors and the demoralization of students are all manifestations of the top wobbling. Fear has caused us to lose our center as a democracy based on the decision making capacity of each human. When the top starts to wobble, bring the focus back to genius. The commitment to lead each character’s genius into the world teaches us the art of “High responsibility; Low control.”

Yesterday my beautiful, brilliant, corporate bigshot wife Continue reading

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Keeping Our Eyes on the Long Haul

Large, mature oak and locust trees arched over the booths of the farmer’s market in Lincoln Park, Chicago. I tried to picture what these trees looked like when they were a hundred years younger. The gentle September sun brought out all the colors of oranges, apples, baby clothes, carriages and chatting mothers all arrayed on the bright green grass, and the still, blue sky brought people, grass, food, and trees together with the bricks, glass, concrete and cars of the city.

The earth meditated as I walked up North Clark Street past all these blessings toward the intellectual epicenter of an educational revolution still in progress Continue reading

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All Kids Love School

What? Really?

My seatmate on a plane to Chicago the other day was Frank, and as you can imagine, we talked about schooling and education. After a while he said, a little timidly: “Well, I don’t think school is for everyone, do you?”

I had to think.

My first reaction was that school should be for everyone. But then I thought, why? People go into a wide variety of endeavors and the straight academic fare of school was often not very helpful. Not only was it not very helpful, but it also made some feel valueless, stupid–like losers. Frank had just said so. He was a real estate investor, and had learned all the mathematics, the problem solving skills and the creative genius one needs for his business after school. In fact, he had to overcome what school had taught him.

To be successful what does Frank need to do? Continue reading

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A Silly Fight in the Sandbox

At dinner one evening, when my daughter, Lizzie, was in first grade, she said: “You know how some teachers just let you play? Well, I want to know stuff, and that’s why I like Ms. Lexton; she teaches us stuff.” [I hope you read this, Cheryl]

Cheryl was a brand new teacher out of Teacher’s College in NYC when she walked in the door of my school and asked the receptionist if there were any teaching jobs. The receptionist called me, and I invited her into my office. When Cheryl said she had gotten an A+ in her student teaching, I decided to hire her.

No mistakes here! Continue reading

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Nice New Book Review

Today: thank you, Susan Heim, for this lovely review of The Genius in Children.

“…our number-one job as parents and educators is to notice the children in our care and to delight in them.” — Rick Ackerly, The Genius in Children

This line from the Introduction to Rick Ackerly’s book, The Genius in Children: Bringing Out the Best in Your Child, accurately sums up his philosophy on child-rearing gleaned from 40 years of working with students, parents and teachers as a father, school principal and consultant. When he speaks of cultivating the “genius” in our children, he’s not talking about raising their test scores or making sure they’re prepared to attend an Ivy League college. Rather, finding a child’s genius Continue reading

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