Stopping to think about it…

I was recently re-reading Alfie Kohn’s 2007 post about “Rethinking Homework.”   It was a line in the first paragraph that caught my attention.  He writes, “After spending most of the day in school, children are typically given additional assignments to be completed at home.  This is a rather curious fact when you stop to think about it, but not as curious as the fact that few people ever stop to think about it. “

It’s the second sentence that resonates… “but not as curious as the fact that few people ever stop to think about it.”  It reminds me of how many people believe that it was God who created the “8 x 5” secondary timetable, which, in my opinion, is the ultimate example of the tail wagging the dog.

My suggestion would be to find at least one colleague and plan some learning opportunities that aren’t based on subjects, bells or the “8 x 5” timetable.  Basically, in Kohn’s words… “stop to think about it.”

I love this “Challenging the Status Quo” image by David Truss.  His blog is great too.


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When the truck is stuck…

Changing the culture of a school or district is hard to do.  Pushing a half-ton truck out of a snow bank is hard too.

Teachers can work 24/7 behind closed doors to make a difference for the kids in their class but have little or no effect on school culture.  One person straining to free a stuck truck can pull every muscle in their body only to watch the tires spin.

I think we all know what happens to the truck when enough bodies lean into it.

This is the difference between “teachers working hard” and “teachers working hard together.”  The same goes for admin, trustees, parents…

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Advice from John Abbott…

John Abbott, president of the 21st Century Learning Initiative, just spent a very full 48 hours in our district.  He did four different presentations to staff, students, parents and community members.  He toured the Energetic Learning Campus and spent time talking with students there.  His message / stories were based on his own experiences as a teacher and headmaster in England, as well as the almost 30 years that he has spent traveling the world to speak about the need for systemic changes in education.  His presentations also referenced his  latest book called “Over Schooled But Under Educated.”

Just before I drove him to the airport, we asked him to give us feedback regarding our Achievement Contract.  In a way that only John can, he let us know that our goals, and the graphic we use to represent them, although impressive, are more than what should be on our first page.  He then said that based on our recent conversations “if you use a mixture of John Milton and Oscar Romero you can walk with no fear.”  He was referring to the following two quotes:

The first is from Milton’s “Of Education” written in 1644:  “I call a complete and generous education that which fits a man to perform justly, skillfully, and magnanimously…” 

The second is from a prayer written by Archbishop Oscar Romero.  The prayer was allegedly found in his pocket after he was assassinated in 1980.  Following are the last three verses:

This is what we are about:
We plant seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything
and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something,
and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for God’s grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results,
but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders,
ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.

Click here to read the whole prayer

I’m not sure yet whether or not we will use Milton’s quote or Romero’s prayer in our Achievement Contract.  However, I do believe that both are great reminders of what it is that we aspire to do, and of what it will require for us to “stay the course” as we attempt to do it.

(To see more of what John Abbott has been up to, please check the 21st Century Learning Initiative’s “Born to Learn” animations.)





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