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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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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Daphne Goes to School

It was a hot day on the upper west side of Manhattan. I had just dropped my freshman stepdaughter off in her dorm room at Columbia University and was experiencing a rare and marvelous moment of directionlessness. Daphne, age five, stood at Broadway and 114th at a table with her father and held a sign saying “Lemonade 50 cents.”

I said, “Wonderful. Lemonade. Perfect thing on this hot day. How much does it cost?”
“Fifty cents,” Daphne replied with a smile.
“Fifty cents. That’s cheep. Can I have a glass?”
“Certainly,” said Daphne.
I gave her a five-dollar bill, and she reached into the zippered purse around her neck, giving me back two quarters.
“But I gave you a five,” I said. Continue reading

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Education and Schooling

Children’s Day pre schoolers are measuring maniacs these days. I had my wingspan measured. It is 101 unifix cubes long. It is also 73 inches, 18 crayons and 13.5 hummingbird wingspans long—same as Malcolm, Annabel’s Dad. Anna Priya’s wingspan is half of Mr. Rick’s.

Experiencing that 101 unifix cubes, 18 crayons, 13.5 hummingbird wingspans and 73 inches are different ways of expressing the same thing is important even if it happens years before they can manipulate the numbers…even before they can associate symbols with quantities. Understanding that there are many ways to see the same thing is a critical educational objective.

Convert the fraction 3/8 to a percent. Turn 37.5% into a decimal. What is the fraction for .375? Students learn how to perform these calisthenics in 5th and 6th grade. However, this business must rest on a complex mental framework in order to be very valuable. Education is building that framework. Learning how to convert fractions to decimals and back again builds only a few tiny links in the fully developed, complex brain.

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