Sunday, March 3, 2013

Huff Post

I have found myself reading the Huffington Post more and more.  They have done a very good job hiring thought-provoking writers in education.  It is a clear example of why crowdsourcing authors on an electronic platform will kill newspapers.  I read a post recently by Chris Lehmann, of the Science Leadership Academy (SLA) in Philadelphia.  I enjoy catching up with him electronically and making an annual pilgrimage to his Educon unconference.  When I commented on his post, I ran into a 250 word limit, so here is the entire post: 

I always enjoy your insightful and innovative viewpoints.  I am fighting the urge to write a lengthy response, so I'll just provide feedback on a few of your excellent points:

1. "stakeholders to care about the work that they do every day".  The vast majority of teachers are passionate and care about their students.  Teaching has been reduced to effort-based triage and teachers lost the time (or know how) to be introspective about their craft.  In short, schools should be learning organizations and a model for other organizations.  Instead, they are bureaucratic models with outdated processes.  It may be unions that thwart progress, but parents at independent schools can have the same effect.  I don't know when and why schools stopped doing their own educational research, but it is sad.  Schools should be able to create their own report card and not solely rely on college matriculation lists and standardized test scores.  I was in finance for fifteen years (prior to teaching) and the large corporations (where I worked) did more to evolve and train workers than many, many schools.  

2. "Care. Care. Care."  Teachers do care, but their influence is restricted to individual stages of the educational conveyer belt.  Schools need a student adviser/advocate with has a more holistic (K-12 or K-20) perspective of each student. Then, we can possibly talk about individualized learning.

3.  "I believe our students can see the "why" we learn and apply their answers to the world at large."  I could not agree more!  For students to clearly see the "why" behind what they learn in K-12, there needs to be a real push to integrate subjects into more multidisciplinary projects.  There is lots of talk about teaching "global education", "critical thinking", "multidisciplinary education" and "21st century skills", but not much real, broad-based progress.  It is mostly marketing on school websites.  To my point about about school losing their ability to learn - schools find it difficult to scratch the surface on these topics to design and implement effective curricula.  Schools need to engage businesses to learn about the skills of their workers, ways their business is evolving, and their business problems.   

4. "No classes over 20 in K-8. No classes over 25 in 9-12. No schools over 600."  I attended public schools growing up and teach at an independent school and I teach at an independent school.  Smaller classes and school work better logistically and as communities.  I respectfully disagree a bit with your focus on numbers.  By doing so, you still assume that schools are the best place to learn.  We should be creating flexible learning environment and re-think traditional constraints like schedule, class size, yearly units of curriculum, etc.  The vast majority of innovation and thinking happens outside of most schools.  How about have a school where students physically attend only every other day (i.e. only half of the enrollment attends on any one day)?   When students are not "in school", they would have online assignments and/or some sort of  field trip, or internship.

Sorry I missed Educon, but we will have lots to chat about next year.  Schools have lost their ability to learn and move forward.  On top of that, most teachers are passionate, independent contractors.  Like building a house, it is challenging to get everyone moving in the same direction.  Without forward movement, teachers will look to solidify their positions.

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