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Dec 08

Chris Smeaton

Open our doors

A colleague of mine relayed to me that the Calgary Science School had hosted nearly 1500 visitors to their school this past year. This charter school, has a population of 600 students from grades 4-9 and is a model of both the science of teaching and inquiry based learning. But 1500 visitors…can you imagine opening up your schools to that number? Would we be willing to be that transparent and that vulnerable to open our doors?

Currently education is “stuck” in the transformation process. We feel that the change required is being halted by public perception and often by our own parents. We fear moving forward because of our insecurities of public perception.

  • They would never understand if we moved to outcomes based reporting only.
  • They would never accept  no percentage grading.
  • They would never allow a modified calendar.
  • They would never support a re-structured timetable.
  • They would never believe that the classroom of yesterday don’t work today.

And so, we fail to really make the necessary changes to the education system and only tweak at best. We resign ourselves to believing that if only our parents, our communities, our society knew what the research said or what Inspiring Education was really about we could make a difference.

If we really want to shift our population’s thinking about how schools are and need to be, we must SHOW THEM! We need to take a page out of the Calgary Science School and open our doors. We need to demonstrate that the classrooms they attended in their youth are not the classrooms required of today. We need to show them that the method illustrated in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off of teaching is not part of modern classrooms today. 

Our schools must not be seen as institutes of private practice but rather institutes of public performance. Educators need to consider themselves as being on stage every single day, engaging students, challenging their thoughts and developing critical thinkers and problem solvers. We must be willing to show the benefits of an inclusive classroom and how our beliefs and practices around inclusion positively impact our society overall. Our classrooms must reveal how students collaborate with one another more often than not and that learning is always at the highest level.

Opening our doors takes the mystery (and the critics) out of the transformation agenda. To get to the next stage of transformation and impact success for all learners not just some requires an open door policy.

“What worked yesterday is the gilded cage of tomorrow.- Peter Block”

Today’s students deserve and require a far different educational experience than ever before. High levels are learning are no longer optional in today’s society. With high school dropouts making up 43% of Canada’s welfare population and 74% of the prison population it would suggest that we need to change.

The demand for educated workers will continue to be high, and those who obtain postsecondary education or training can continue to expect to earn a premium while those who do not will have far fewer opportunities to earn a living wage.” Craig D. Jerald, Defining a 21st Century Education

It is time to demonstrate our modern-day classrooms and invite our public into our schools. Then, and only then, will people understand how education has changed and needs to continue to evolve, because remember, we are teaching students for their future and not our past!  

 

 

 

3 comments

  1. Heather Spiess

    Chris,
    This is a very wonderful article, and I think that many of our schools are being innovative and transforming the experiences that students have in their classrooms. I can certainly see examples of this in my own daughter’s classroom. Having said this, It is unfortunate that her school has begun a practise of dismissing students in the school yard, no where near their classroom experience. The school is discouraging parents from coming into the school to pick up their children. I feel I am missing out on the welcoming experience of feeling connected to my child’s learning experience that I have had the in previous few years, for i know from the past that my child’s school is one that is trying to transform the educational experience.

    This open door policy that you speak of is crucial for the parent, school, and parish relationship that our district has as part of its mission statement. I hope that we can continue to encourage this open door policy in our schools!

  2. Lori Litke

    Chris,

    Thank you for this insight. Having spent sometime in my children’s school, my experience has been that teachers who are engaging 21st Century Learning Strategies such as Project Based Learning, Innovative use of Technology and working in diverse peer groups by all accounts are well loved teachers by their students. As parents we can sometimes e quick to judge these often loud and rambunctious rooms as “out of control”. However a closer look invites us to see children engaged in critical thinking, using powerful interpersonal skills and gaining knowledge through experience. Change is always hard, but it is necessary. Inviting parents to be part of the process, encouraging them to witness the learning innovations at work is a wonderful place to start building towards the much needed transformation to education.

    1. Chris Smeaton
      Chris Smeaton

      Thanks Lori for your comments! Opening our doors requires us to move from private “practice” to a public “performance.” It is quite a shift required to bring the world into our classrooms. However, without that shift, our practice will either be seen as “same old, same old” or mystical in nature. Parents and society in general need to understand the needs for student learning are vastly different than it was when they went to school and without opening our doors…

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