Feb 28

School Should Be More Than This

One of the things that drives me crazy about the way we talk about school in this country is how much so many people are willing to settle for “Do no harm” when it comes to their child’s school. Even teachers struggle with this problem with their own children. When I speak to groups of teachers, I often ask the teacher-parents in the room this question – “How many of you have – at that moment of separation from your child in the morning – have thought about their school, ‘Please don’t screw them up too much today?'”

It’s scary how many teachers raise their hands.

School doesn’t have to be whiz-bang fun every day. Learning is hard work, and often times meaningful learning experiences are really hard when one is in the middle of the struggle. So this post isn’t about calling for school to be all sunshine and roses all the time – I’d worry about that too.

But what I worry about is how much school is about anything but meaningful learning experiences. How many teachers in America would reward the student who found a way to demonstrate a novel way to he learning they had done rather than just follow the directions? How many schools actively encourage students to seek out learning experiences beyond worksheets and checklists and tests as a matter of common practice? How many schools justify bad pedagogical practice by saying, “I’m just preparing you for [middle school / high school / college / the world of work?]” How many schools move to an authoritarian response to students as a matter of course, often criminalizing non-criminal behavior?

And yes, schools are under siege right now. Budget cuts, unfunded mandates, the ever-shifting sands of new standards, new tests, new policies are all making it harder, not easier, to co-create profound learning experiences for and with our kids. And when that is combined with the tired pedagogy that already exists in too many places, the result is a toxic combination that does much to quell any joy of learning for kids.

We have to do to better. We can do better. Schools can be vigorously active places where students and teachers push each other to be better today than we were yesterday. Schools can be places our students want to be. Schools can be places where kids learn that they are capable of more than they thought possible.

We really should accept nothing less.

Aug 31

EduCon 2.6 – Register and Call for Proposals!

The seventh annual EduCon conference will be held at Science Leadership Academy from January 24th through January 26th, 2014! We are gearing up for a the conference again this year, and everyone at SLA is excited to make the experience a memorable one! Tickets are on sale and you can purchase them at http://educonphilly.org/register.

EduCon is a special kind of conference where the pedagogy of the conference is a mirror of the pedagogy we hope to see in our schools. As such, the conference is built around the following ideas:

  1. Our schools must be inquiry-driven, thoughtful and empowering for all members.
  2. Our schools must be about co-creating — together with our students — the 21st Century Citizen.
  3. Technology must serve pedagogy, not the other way around.
  4. Technology must enable students to research, create, communicate, and collaborate.
  5. Learning can — and must — be networked.

This year’s panel themes are centered around the concept of Openness – and we will be announcing some really wonderful panelists very soon!

And, as always, EduCon is only as good as the community makes it. We are calling for proposals for conversations. EduCon sessions should be interactive and conversational – facilitations rather than presentations. Proposals are due November 1st, and you can submit your proposal at http://educonphilly.org/propose.

We hope to see you at EduCon 2.6!

Jul 01

Free the Hallways

According to school architect and author of The Third Teacher, Trung Le, over 35% of the square footage of the average school are in use less than 5% of the day.

The hallways.

The reason for this is that the institutional design that schools most resemble are prisons.

Think about it — we move kids from cell to cell, we monitor their coming and going whenever they leave their cells at anything but the designated time, often giving them a pass so that other adults can know immediately that the student is allowed in the common space, and many principals are taught that the secret of success as an administrator is to clear the hallways as soon as the bell rings at the start of class, and most schools give three or four minutes to get from class to class, no matter how big the campus is or how crowded the hallways get at the change of classes.

And we wonder why kids feel like school feel like prison.

If we want kids to feel that schools are more human places, let’s start by making every space a learning space, every space a social space. Let’s free the hallways. It makes sense from a practical point, if nothing else. Authentic learning tends to require more square footage than traditional schooling. When a class of 30 high school students start collaborating, the average classroom can get loud quickly. Letting a few groups work in the hallways is not only a way of letting students own where and how they learn, it also just makes learning easier by simply giving kids more room to work.

But it makes sense from a philosophical sense as well. We can shift our thinking from  When kids are not herded from classes to class with three minutes but are given a little more time to transition, they feel more valued. When kids do not view learning as tethered only to a specific classroom space, they are more likely to see school as a continuum of social learning that is an intrinsic part of their lives, not just something that is done to them.

And yes, there will be times when the kids get louder than we want them to. And yes, this will make it easier for some students to check out of the learning when they want to. And yes, it will mean that “classroom management” can be a little harder when our classrooms does not end at the door of the physical class space. These are some of the negative consequences of what can be a very good idea. And while we need to do things to mitigate those issues, they will never go away. The question we need to ask ourselves is always this:

Is it better to deal with the issues that arise from allowing students more ownership over where and how they learn than dealing with the issues that arise from making sure students know that the adults tell them where and when to be at all times?

If the answer is yes, then schools need to prepare for a major culture shift.

But let’s be clear — this is hard.

This does challenge many of the assumptions we have made about school and how schools function as organizations, and this is a very difficult challenge for many educators to make. Thinking through the questions, challenges, issues and consequences – both positive and negative – of a shift like this requires honoring the concerns of everyone involved.

  • What happens when we put tables and chairs along the halls and make it space that kids can use?
  • What happens when students do not have to stay only in the cafeteria to eat lunch?
  • What happens when we create spaces that are shared between teachers and students?
  • What are the ways we can create third spaces for kids to be that are lightly supervised with a lot of space for student ownership over community standards of behavior?
  • How can the community keep the best goals of this shift in mind, even when there are frustrations with the shift?
  • How do we balance what can be competing needs of teachers and students in the use of physical space?

Autonomy and agency can be really hard, because people make bad decisions from time to time — not just kids, but all of us. And this is not about giving total autonomy to students — everyone has a responsibility to each other to be responsible to the learning process, especially if much of the learning is collaborative. It is about collaborative agency, where decisions can be made together. And when we give kids more agency over how they use the space, we challenge many of the assumptions we make about school. That’s not easy, but the rewards can be one more powerful way we move from compulsory schooling to a more democratic and empowering education. Schools are not prisons, and every step we move away from that model of institutional design, the better.

Jun 30

Why Do We Need to Know This?

“Why Do We Need to Know This?”

It is the question that many teachers hate to hear from students in their classrooms. Whether it is the format of the Shakespearean Sonnet, the Pythagorean theorem, or why the Periodic Table of Elements is organized the way that it is, kids spend a lot of time in schools wondering why they are learning what seems like a disconnected series of facts and skills that don’t seem to have much importance to the lives they are leading. And from time to time, the bravest of students will screw up the courage to ask that question.

Sadly, too often, the answers (when a teacher is even willing to engage with the question) students range from “It is going to be on the test,” to “It will help you some day,” to “It’ll help you get into college.” When really, more often than not, it’s because the subject matter in question is “part of the curriculum.” If a student is lucky, the teacher is teaching that particular thing because the teacher has a real passion for the subject, but even that really doesn’t answer the question in any meaningful way.

Students deserve an answer to the question. And we, as educators, need to understand that if we can’t answer the question powerfully, we have to start questioning what we teach and how we teach it.

We live in a fascinating world. There’s more really interesting stuff to learn, understand and do than any one person has in a lifetime — or probably ten lifetimes. Helping students to see the power and beauty of all that stuff is one of the most important, if not the most important, job of a teacher. That is where an inquiry-driven, project-based approached to learning is so essential. Questions like, “How do I be a better boyfriend / girlfriend,” “What pollutants are in the drinking water in my home,” and “How do we build my ideal learning space?” all give powerful answers to the questions of “Why do I need to know this?” for any of the information from the first paragraph. And all of them are questions that could have relevance to the students in our classes, and all of them open students up to the received wisdom, not just of the teacher of the world at large. Equally as important, all of those questions could lead students to engage in powerful problem-solving, artifact-building, and reflection as they consider their personal answers to those questions.

If we remember that the time students spend in school is supposed to be about helping them to become better citizens, then the question of “Why do we need to know this?” becomes essential to what and why we teach. The questions and answers that follow the asking of the question should and will have profound implications on both our content and our pedagogy. And if we create our learning spaces as places where the question, “Why do I need to know this?” is actually the right of every student to ask, but is the first, most exciting question of every day, we can create vibrant, powerfully relevant classes that engage and empower everyone in it.

Jun 26

Technology Transforms Pedagogy: ISTE Session

My ISTE session this year was Technology Transforms Pedagogy: Combining the Tools and the Vision. I didn’t want it to be the same as many of the workshops I have given in the past, but at the same time, I still believe what I believe, and so finding a new way to take people through some of these ideas was a challenge.

I’ve found, especially when I’m at a conference in a big hall, getting people to tackle prompts is a challenge. People don’t necessarily know each other, and the big hall isn’t really set up for conversations. But I also didn’t want to just talk at people for an hour.

I also have found that open-ended prompts can sometimes lead people into the weeds quickly. So I decided to try to put some constraints on how people were going to answer and leverage social media to  move the conversation. The prompts we used were all meant to be a series of ten-word answers that would / could serve to help people drill down to a simple statement of purpose while also given them the building blocks for larger answers later. For the folks who had Twitter, I asked them to tweet their answers to the #istetransforms hashtag.

From the feedback I received, people found it to be a powerful way to attack these ideas. The prompts we used were as follows:

  • Schools should help students become…
  • Technology helps me realize my vision by…
  • Technology means that I have to let go of…
  • [A system I employ] can now change in this way…
  • In 2013-14, learning can be…

And as a presenter, what I loved about it, is that it forced me to re-examine how I think about framing these issues, and the incredible stream of ideas that we were able to share and think through will provide me with plenty of things to think about as well.

The issues we face are, without a doubt, far too complex for ten words, but sometimes, working to simply delineate what we think and what we believe will help us figure out what the ideas, policies and systems that follow must be. Thanks to ISTE for a wonderful conference and for the ability to think through and deepen my understanding of what I believe.


 

Jun 23

Complex, Not Complicated

 

by Hugh McLeod

by Hugh McLeod

Hugh McLeod created the piece of art on the left –  “Strive for Complex, Not for Complicated.” It is a simple idea that is powerfully crystallizing. I was excited by it because I realized it gave me a simple way to articulate how and why I think what I think about the need for common structures, common language, common processes in schools.

One of the great things about inquiry-driven, project-based learning is that it lends itself to incredible complexity. Whether it is a full-sized catapult or a documentary film or a bio-wall or any number of projects that are phenomenally complex. True inquiry-driven, project-based learning asks students to take their own ideas, marry them to the skills and content of a class, collaborate with colleagues and create profound artifacts of their own learning.

The good news is that kind of work is inspiring, challenging and profound. The problem is that complex work is hard. It requires kids to problem-solve, to collaborate, to bring multiple skills to bear on solving a problem. As such, we have to make sure that the structure of school does not create complications that get in the way of complexity.

This is why it is so important that schools that have a focus on the complex work of inquiry set up common school structures so that students can avoid as many complications as possible. If the adults are willing to have the internal discipline to ensure that words mean the same thing from classroom to classroom, that goals build on one another year to year, that there is a common language of assessment so that students have a transparent sense of what is valued, then we can make our schools less complicated.

At SLA, the work we have done around building a deep understanding of the way we use our core values, the work we have done in the way we use Understanding by Design, the work we have done around creating a common language of assessment with our school-wide rubric and our standards-based grading has all been in service of creating that common language of learning so that we lower the bar of understanding the adults so that we can raise the bar of understanding the work — and understanding ourselves. The idea that we can come together around a vision of education and then do the hard work of creating a pathway to enabling that vision means that we can cut down on the amount of time kids get lost in the space between the adults. That has been one of the keys to our success. And it is a never-ending process of deepening our understanding of our processes and evolving our language to become more and more transparent to students. That commitment is what allows us to continue to grow together as educators and therefore help our students grow as well.

Everything we do in our schools and our classrooms that makes a student’s life more complicated is time we steal from them to learn how to deal with the complexity of the problems they can tackle. As teachers, we need to examine our own practices to ensure that we do not get in the way of the powerful learning of our students.

Apr 03

Teach Kindness

[In my attempt to push my own thinking, I'm continuing to unpack in writing some of the things that I say a lot. I always say that I want SLA kids to be "thoughtful, wise, passionate and kind" -- and I do -- so I thought it was a good idea to take those words apart a bit. This is part four. Thoughtfulness, Teach Wisdom and Teach Passion were the first three parts.]

“Hello babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. On the outside, babies, you’ve got a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies-“God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”

— Kurt Vonnegut, God Bless You Mr. Rosewater

High school is not structured to teach kindness.

There is almost nothing about the traditional high school structure that would encourage kids to believe that the adults value kindness. Think about it. The factory model of education that persists in most American high schools are designed to limit meaningful human interaction, not create it.

  • 40-50 minute classes
  • Students seeing up to seven or eight teachers a day
  • Students having different students in every class
  • 100 point grading scales and class ranks that encourage students to compete against one another
  • No longitudinal relationships between students and teachers, so there are few opportunities aside from extra-curriculars for teachers and students to know one another over time.
  • Little to no time for meaningful collaboration among the adults

So much of the current overarching structure of high school is fundamentally individualistic, isolating and solipsistic. What’s incredible is that most teachers went into the profession because on some fundamental level, they care about kids. And without a doubt, individual teachers in schools all over the world inspire students with their acts of kindness despite being in a system that discourages rather than encourages kindness as an institutional value.

That has to change.

We have to recognize that teaching kindness is more than just modeling “being nice to kids,” we have understand that kindness is the essentially the act of extending one’s self in the care of another. Aristotle defined it as “helpfulness towards some one in need, not in return for anything, nor for the advantage of the helper himself, but for that of the person helped.” (http://rhetoric.eserver.org/aristotle/rhet2-7.html) And kindness is central as a profoundly important action — virtue, even — most of the major religious and philosophical movements from Judeo-Christian to Islam to Buddhism to humanism. It is, therefore, a moral imperative to create the environments in our high schools where kindness is more easily and powerfully modeled and taught.

So then what are structures that more powerfully lend themselves to learning environments that are more kind? How do we make it easier for students to be kind to one another and easier for teachers to model kindness by being able to be kind to their students?

  1. Create spaces for students and teachers to know each other over time. For SLA, that’s Advisory. When students and teachers have a community where people can know each other not just as students and teachers of a subject, but as people, that is a powerful opportunity for kindness. In addition, when students are encouraged to see teachers as their advocates, it gives teachers the opportunity to model kindness.
  2. Create more opportunities for students to feel part of a community in their classes. Schools  teach “Humanities” classes so that students spend more time with the same group of student, schools integrate science and math, schools loop students and teachers for more than a year so that the community of learners can stay together.
  3. Simplify the grading systems and do away with individualized class rank. Educators like Joe Bower (http://www.joebower.org/) advocate doing away with grading entirely, but there are less extreme steps schools can take. Schools can move to a 4.0 GPA without plusses and minuses so that students are less competitive about their grades. Schools can report broad categories of class rank to colleges (Top 10%, top 25%, top 50% – this is what we do at SLA.) All these are ways to dial down the competitiveness of high school and allow students to become more invested in the success of all members of their community.
  4. Have students identify and solve real problems. Many educators are using the framework of Design Thinking (http://www.designthinkingforeducators.com/) to help students develop empathy as they learn how to listen to identify problems and seek solutions.
  5. Create channels for positive interactions between home and school. Schedule fifteen minutes once a month in a faculty meeting for teachers to write positive emails to students and parents about great things they have seen in the classroom so that students and parents can see that school-home communication is more than informational and punitive.
  6. Have shared spaces. Put tables in hallways, make the Main Office community space, don’t put the principal’s office in the back of the office. Eat lunch together. And then, when you are together, laugh. Laugh a lot.

This list is by no means exhaustive, but it’s a start. The adults who spend their lives in schools are overwhelming kind people. And students are capable of profound acts of kindness. The structure of school must do more to enable and enhance and support that.

What changes to the structure of school would you make to enable us to model kindness for children?

Apr 02

Teach Passion

[In my attempt to push my own thinking, I'm continuing to unpack in writing some of the things that I say a lot. I always say that I want SLA kids to be "thoughtful, wise, passionate and kind" -- and I do -- so I thought it was a good idea to take those words apart a bit. This is part three. Thoughtfulness was part one and Teach Wisdom was part two. ]

One of the critiques of this generation of young people is that they are apathetic, and it is our experience with the students we meet both in and out of SLA that the critique is no more apt in this generation than in our own or in the ones that came before us. The young women and men we teach are looking for a reason to care about more than what society is telling them is important. They are looking for a reason to be more than the stereotype of youth culture that is portrayed through mass media.

We have to ask ourselves — how often does school give them that reason?

In most schools, the things students care most about are extra-curricular – sports, drama, newspaper, marching band, debate – and students across the country endure class for the right to participate in the thing they actually care about. When I coached, I knew I had students who were keeping their grades up for the right to play and little else, and every coach I’ve known has similar stories. And while I wasn’t against using eligibility as a way to motivate an athlete, I have to ask – why is this o.k.? Why is it o.k. to tell students to endure the seven hours of classes and two or three hours of homework so they can enjoy the hour or two of the activity they are most passionate about?

And the thing is, the “soft” lessons we most want to teach are there to be learned in extra-curricular activities. Watch an athlete run sprints to train for the season or the lead of a play work a scene for hours or the editor of the school newspaper edit article after article – this isn’t just about “fun,” this is about passion.

And yet we partition off all of the work to the world of “extra-curricular.”

We have to help kids care as much about the curricular as they do about the extra-curricular.

Make it relevant: If we cannot help students to see how what they are learning in our classes is relevant to their lives, then how can we ask the overwhelming majority of our students to develop a passion for what we teach? And while there will always be a percentage of our students who fall in love with our subject because of its beauty or intrinsic interesting-ness, that’s not good enough. It is the difference between teaching Hamlet primarily through the literary structure devices Shakespeare uses or using it as a text to examine how our own human struggles to figure out who we are and how we should act as part of a continuum  of a hundreds year old struggle to make meaning of our lives.

Make it real: Have students create real artifacts of their own learning that have impact in the world. High school students can create public service campaigns for their neighborhoods around environmental / scientific issues. Students can create documentaries and submit them to film festivals. Students can debate the meaning of historical events and the impact they have on our society today. They can do fieldwork science, getting out of the pre-canned laboratory and doing field research in the world at large. And students can engage in all manner of engineering projects from building apps to building small-scale solar installations. And in all these examples, make sure that students are not just asking the questions we have given them, but that they are asking and answering their own questions, building knowledge and meaning from their own line of inquiry.

Make it live in the world: Whether through leveraging the web, creating opportunities for performance, or simply creating gallery walks within the school so students have the opportunity for peer critique, we must make sure that student work is more than just a dialogue between student and teacher. When students have authentic audience and can therefore see themselves as having an informed – if not expert – voice in the world, students will develop passion for their work. Be aware, that merely blogging to blog grows old, and we must work to create real opportunities for audience, rather than just counting on the somewhat overwhelming nature of a Google search to create audience.

Make it last: When students move from unconnected project to unconnected project, students can lose the sense of urgency and passion, but when students have the opportunity to see a project through multiple revisions, through multiple iterations, it becomes theirs. When students care enough about a project to hand it down to younger students to continue the work, you know that students have a passion for what they have created.

Schools can be places of great passion where students learn what it means to be scholar-activists, fully invested in authentic work that matters to them today, not someday.

When we do this, we will fully realize the promise of the idea that school should not just be preparation for real life, but rather that school can be real life, not just after school, but all day long with students and teachers who are making meaning relevant to the lives we all are leading now, as well as growing thoughtfully into the lives we will live tomorrow.

Mar 31

Teach Wisdom

[In my attempt to push my own thinking, I'm continuing to unpack in writing some of the things that I say a lot. I always say that I want SLA kids to be "thoughtful, wise, passionate and kind" -- and I do -- so I thought it was a good idea to take those words apart a bit. This is part two. Thoughtfulness was Part One.]

If you google “Definition of wisdom,” you get the following definition:

Wisdom: Noun

1. The quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment; the quality of being wise.

2. The soundness of an action or decision with regard to the application of such experience, knowledge, and good judgment. (https://www.google.com/search?q=Definition+of+wisdom)

We think of wisdom as something that only comes with time. Traditionally, the young person is head-strong, the elder is wise. Societally, we think of wisdom hard-earned — and interestingly, it is often gained by those who are not considered “good at school” — it is the stereotype of the elder who learned at “the school of hard knocks.” It is not something that we traditionally think of when we think of high school students to the point where when a young person actually displays these traits, we say they are “wise beyond their years.”

And yet, if we are to help students to become fully realized citizens during their time with us, helping them to develop “soundness of action” and “good judgement” — in other words, wisdom — during their time with us is essential. Because intellect and knowledge without the wisdom to apply those ideas thoughtfully can be profoundly dangerous.

So then, wisdom becomes about decision-making and action-taking, but the accumulation of wisdom is about reflection. Wisdom is about understanding that “doing” is not the end of the learning process, reflecting on what we have done is. Wisdom is about learning from your mistakes, but then — importantly — being able to apply those lessons not only so that you do not make the same mistakes again, but that you can imagine and foresee mistakes before they happen.

Wisdom means not falling so in love with your own ideas that you cannot see the unintended harm those ideas could do.

So how we do help our students to become more wise?

Do Real Stuff: We have to dare kids, help kids, support kids to attempt great things, struggle, reflect, learn and try again. That is the cycle through which wisdom is gained. But we rarely reflect on the things we do not care about. When kids are engaged in work that matters to them, work that is authentic and has real meaning, we create the conditions for students to reflect and gain wisdom. The coach who has students watch game footage and critique their own performances, both individually and as a team, is doing more to help her students become more wise than the teacher who covers the content of a World History class at blistering pace.

Be Scholar-Activists: It isn’t enough to do real work that matters. We have to help students see that work in the context of the work that has gone on before us. That is why it is important not just to study history but to develop the tools of the historian. When our students see themselves as scholar-activists, they place their actions in the stream of human history and they can learn from the mistakes of the past while they endeavor to take action in the present.

Be Willing to Live in the Soup: Life is messy and there are few absolutes. When we own that publicly with our students, encouraging them to come with us on our own journeys of figuring all of this out. In a conversation on Twitter, Bill Ferriter wrote, “Learning only happens when there is tension between what kids think they know and what they see in the world around them.” (https://twitter.com/plugusin/status/318394936233951232) And he is right, it is in that moment of conflict between what we think we know and what we experience that meaning happens. We need to help our students understand that we — all of us — are forever engaged in what Alvin Toffler said was the process of learning, unlearning and re-learning. (http://www.quotationspage.com/quotes/Alvin_Toffler/) And our students will be far more willing to listen to that message if we model ourselves.

In the end, our willingness to engage in reflective practice with our students, our dexterity in creating the conditions for students to engage in real work that matters, and our ability to help them see themselves and that work in the context of the never-ending stream of human history — in short, our ability to help our students to become more wise, is the most important thing we can do. If our students can learn from their experiences with us, when they still have a safety net, we will have enabled them to make better decisions about their own lives when they leave our walls. And if we have helped them to be more thoughtful about wise about their world around them, then we have helped them become better citizens for the world at large.

Mar 29

Thoughtfulness

[In my attempt to push my own thinking, I'm continuing to unpack in writing some of the things that I say a lot. I always say that I want SLA kids to be "thoughtful, wise, passionate and kind" -- and I do -- so I thought it was a good idea to take those words apart a bit. This is part one.]

Once we accept the premise that the purpose of school is to help our students become fully realized citizens of a modern world, we have to ask ourselves what are the universal traits of the modern citizen?

We want people who are thoughtful.

Not “thoughtful” as a synonym for “nice.” Our world needs people who are truly “full of thought.”

There has long been an anti-intellectual thread to American society and sadly, school has probably done as much to perpetuate it as it has to eliminate it. By catering to the “right answer” and a reinforcing curricular decisions that taught kids in a top-down, “we know what is best to learn” fashion, we have long sent the message that thoughts that are outside the proscribed canon — and therefore kids who are outside the proscribed canon — are not o.k.

When we treat our classes as lenses on the world, not walled-off silos, we allow students to make connections to other ideas in such a way that will allow them to connect idea to idea, thought to thought, in ways that can be never-ending.

When we honor the ideas our students have and dare them to push those ideas further, we teach students that the world of ideas is a place they can live.

When we model thoughtfulness by deconstructing our own ideas in public, we teach our students that thoughts are not fixed, final and perfect, so that students can understand how reflective practice can lead us to deepen our ideas.

When we are open as teachers so that student ideas can influence and change our own — so that we are a learner in our own classrooms as well — we teach students that authority has no monopoly on ideas, on “right.” A teacher who is willing to say the words, “I never thought it that way,” to a student in a classroom opens a child up to the power of their own ideas to influence others, and that is an invaluable lesson to learn.

And when we create an inquiry-driven, project-based curriculum, where students can take the ideas of the classroom, make them their own, go deeper into the ideas that most speak to them, and then build artifacts that reflect their ideas and the path they travelled to develop them, we let students see the power of their ideas made manifest in the world.

In the end, the hallmark of a great school isn’t the number of ideas, facts and thoughts of ours that our students remember at the end of four years, it is the sheer number of ideas, facts and thoughts they discovered that built on the foundations we helped them to build.

It is the thing a test can never measure, and we have to do it anyway.

We must help our students be thoughtful.