Monday, December 12, 2005

Thoughts for a new school


Every teachers dream
to be part of creative new school
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This week I am off to discuss a few ideas with a group of parents who want to establish their own school. No doubt they will have their own ideas of why they want to do this and I just see myself just helping them sort a few things out, and dealing with the bureaucratic requirements, to establish such a school.

But the idea of establishing an alternative school is exciting. Few teachers will have not dreamed, at some point, about being free to focus on creating environments for teaching and learning without the distraction of often mindless paperwork and imposed requirements – and in particular in classes small enough to develop the all important learning relationships.

To be honest, I am a believer in a state education system, for all sorts of reasons, but am the first to admit that while things start out well in the early years but, by the time many students reach early secondary school, they have long since disengaged their minds from the responsibility of being in charge of their own learning.

So alternatives are important as the state is unable to foster the necessary diversity and creativity to provide a personalized education for all its students.

Imagine what you would say to prospective parents if you were beginning a new school?

Some things that come to my mind are:

• 'We want above all to foster a love of learning, for its own sake, in every child.'

• 'We believe that everything we will do will be based on helping each learner develop a positive self image as a learner and help them to answer the basic questions we all have to face up to: Where did we come from? Who am I? What really matters to us? What gifts do I have? What might I become? And how can I make the world a better place'?

• 'We will value what ever gifts and talents your child brings and then do our best to expand on these and to provide opportunities for new talents to develop'.

• 'We see education as a partnership between the learner, the parent, the student and see learning as a relationship between the teacher, the learner and whatever it is that is currently holding the child’s imagination'.

. 'We want them to develop a strong sense of place by helping them become aware, and caring towards, their natural environment'.

• 'We want your child to leave equipped with all the learning skills, including information technology, to be able to thrive in what will be an unpredictable but potentially exciting future. Literacy and numeracy we see as vital ‘foundation skills’ – but to us the most important future skill of all is to be continually open to new learning opportunities so that students see themselves as their own ‘meaning makers’'.

• 'We will value the need for every learner to do their personal best, to appreciate the need for effort and perseverance, and to continually want to improve'.

• 'Although we will value and protect your own child uniqueness we will also help him, or her, to appreciate and value cultural diversity and individual differences in others so as to become sensitive and caring individuals'.

• 'Through learning experiences, based as much as is possible on students emerging interests, we will ensure that students are exposed to all the important ideas that make us human and, in particular citizens, of New Zealand. We want all our students to see that learning is integrated and connected around studies that capture their imagination'.

• 'We see our teachers as creative learning coaches assisting every learner, according to their needs and learning styles, by providing whatever help they can but always with the thought in mind of leaving students in control of their own learning'.

• And, 'as for assessment of progress we will ensure your child can, show, demonstrate, perform, or tell you, what they have done, and how they have improved because of their own actions'.

• But most of all, 'we want your child to be a confident caring life long explorer of new ideas and opportunities – to love the act of learning'.

Have I missed anything out?


Anonymous said...

Children should be aware of, learn about, and respect and care for their natural environment. It seems that so many go through our state education system and learn so little about the things that make New Zealand unique in the world.

Rachel said...

Funny that! Only last week i was talking with others about lets create our own school! In fact it was the last day i saw you :-) (We weren't serious of course - just entertaining the idea) How many teachers have thought about it - i have on a number of occasions... maybe something to think about when my contract is over :-)
I guess for everyone the edutopia they have in mind is different but the commonalities whatever you could dream up would be freedom to focus on what is important without having to deal with the extraneous 'stuff' As you have said b4 "JUST DO IT"

Anonymous said...

It all seems to start out so positively in the early years but by the time students reach lower secondary school too many students are dis-engaged (to use the 'in' term); can't be just the kids must be in part the system as well?

Bruce said...

Thanks Rachel and anon. I added your comment anon. And I am sure failure is endemic in our current system and kicks in hard at early secondary school.