This morning our entire 6-12 teaching staff gathered at the middle school for an introduction to the School for Today Initiative. Our district has been planning on adopting this initiative in the near future and we came together today to discuss how it would look and function. While many initiatives are bandied about and dropped, this one seems to be gaining steam. Even so, a few teachers brought up the question about whether or not this project would be just a two-year deal or if we would really make this our permanent goal.
The initiative has four main themes: democracy, responsive spaces, systemic adaptiveness and community. The goal is to make school less like what it has traditionally been and more like the schools kids will need in the future. What does that look like? Well, more school will take place outside of the building, the rooms inside the building will be redesigned to take into account the different learning styles of the kids, students will have a stake and a say in their learning and kids will also incorporate the concept of service into their learning.
My initial reaction to this plan was, "Yes, please! The sooner the better!" I think that Melissa and I have been working on these concepts for several years. Kids drive their own learning in our classes, we have both overhauled our rooms to make them more kid-centric, we try to make more of the learning occur outside of he building and every year we do at least one big service project. Kids need to see that they have voice, choice and a responsibility to others.
There is always some disconnect between the middle school and the high school. That "rift" came about again during this discussion. The high school teachers are tied to test scores, college readiness and curriculum goals. There is no time for this other kind of learning, even if they wish it so. I think that the high school teachers feel trapped. They are trapped in a system that serves yesterday's kids and yet that system is still in place. Even while colleges are slowly evolving, high schools remain entrenched.
The kind of learning represented by the School for Today initiative is learning that will stick with the kids. Because the students have a stake in the learning, they will learn better. Because kids can interact more in their learning space, they will learn more. Because kids will see a new sense of purpose in school, they will see themselves as lifelong learners. When kids see themselves as lifelong learners, they ARE lifelong learners.
Teachers across the country are re-imagining their classrooms, even at the high school level. They have the same testing, curricular and college readiness expectations as our high school teachers, but they evolved and are thriving. Nothing is scarier than change but our more traditional schools must evolve or die. Even our entrenched high school can find ways to incorporate the School for Today initiative. All kids want to learn; learning is in our nature as human beings. Kids may not want to learn what we're trying to teach them, but they do want to learn. We have to find ways to give the kids more autonomy in their learning and support them in their learning. The School for Today initiative is a great start toward this goal.