Thinking Beyond Traditional School Models

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I love any discussions about ways we can redesign our school models. In a recent NAIS blog post, Jeff Bell reflects on how to implement design thinking in a school setting. Although he speaks from his experience creating a start up school, he also offers helpful advice about how to integrate design thinking into existing schools. I continue to wonder how encourage momentum in this direction when teachers are used to more traditional models.

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Building Teacher Leaders

In a recent KQED Mindshift article “7 Qualities That Promote Teacher Leadership,”  journalist Katrina Schwartz outlines conditions that build teacher leader roles in schools and therefore enhance student learning.

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#7 The school and system must be oriented toward risk-taking and inquiry. Just as students need hands-on applied learning rooted in inquiry, so, too, do teachers need powerful driving questions to push their work forward. “School systems must be able to interrogate themselves about the extent to which they create opportunities for teachers to learn and lead in ways that spread teaching expertise and improve student outcomes,” writes Berry.

I found #7 a particularly compelling condition and one that I would argue is essential before the others can exist. Without the inclination for risk-taking, administrators are unlikely to explore and question the school status quo.

 

Where College Admissions Went Wrong

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In her recent Atlantic article, Where College Admissions Went Wrong, Alia Wong details the increasingly skewed values stressed by the college admissions process:

The admissions process today “not only allocates opportunity—by deciding who gets into where—but it also allocates values by determining what matters in preparing for, applying to, and selecting a college…Far too many students are learning to do whatever it takes to get ahead—even if that means sacrificing individuality, health, happiness, ethical principles, and behavior.”

As long as colleges care more about their credentials and rankings than about the well-being of our society’s children, the process will continue to breed anxiety, conformity, and exhaustion among today’s teens.

Rethinking College Admissions

Great article by Frank Bruni last week in the NYT, “Rethinking College Admissions.”

“They’re realizing that many kids admitted into top schools are emotional wrecks or slavish adherents to soulless scripts that forbid the exploration of genuine passions. And they’re acknowledging the extent to which the admissions process has contributed to this.

But they still need to stop filling so much of each freshman class with specially tagged legacy cases and athletes and to quit worrying about rankings like those of U.S. News and World Report. Only then will the tide fully turn.”

 

Padlet Explorations in US History

As we studied Western expansion in American history, I wanted to be sure that my students appreciated the impact on Native Americans. In order to introduce them all to a different story, I asked them to individually research and create a padlet on a particular group of Native Americans.

 

Here’s a link to the class padlet they created. cheyenne-chief