I woke up this morning thinking about public schools, career path, and teaching… specifically, brain rolled around with the possibility of getting certified to teach school, while body rolled around with the possibility of breakfast. (This isn’t exactly new, I’ve been an educator at heart since my Outward Bound days, nearly two decades ago.) But then this comes in the morning emails:
I’ve decided to offer myself as a candidate for the Waters LSC as a community representative. I have been at Waters since 1991 when I enrolled my son Jamal here. I was elected as President of the first LSC and held that position for 5 years. I went back to school (NEIU) and received a interdisciplinary degree in Education, Ecology and Neighborhood Studies.
We partnered with the Center for City Schools at National Louis University and began an intense and well supported period of professional development for our teachers. That first LSC learned that education could be an amazing, rich, challenging, and joyous experience for children. It all depends on how a school teaches and what its philosophy of education is.
Parents were invited to workshops to let them experience what this educational vision was about: collaboration, sharing, valuing each voice, going beyond text books to original works and sources, opening the doors of our school and its classrooms to allow the community in, and the students out into the world.
We learned that the arts, real work, and world experiences, could be combined with the core disciplines of literacy, math and science, to give kids a rich, multifaceted education. We were a local, poor, low-scoring, no-special programs school that decided that our kids were an amazing gift, capable of great achievement.
The 1990s were an amazing time of partnering, support, experimentation and growth. Our scores rose steadily. But our school paid more attention to other more meaningfull assessments: student writing, problem solving, ability to work with others, recognition of “other intelligences”, and projects, projects, projects.
Since 2000 our schools have been under a barage of mandates to test, to teach to the test, to reduce student assessment to a series of data points. We need, as a community, to educate our selves about what is “best practice” in education, and support it in our school. We have to produce a countervailing pressure in order to protect our kids, teachers and administrators.
I am known at Waters mostly for my work in ecology. But, the ecology program was an outgrowth, a sprout and flowering of the ideas planted in 1991. It is what every parent wants for their child: the best, most rich learning experiences in a caring and safe community.
Let us hold on to this vision and learn together.
I’m inspired and wondering again, fully awake and a little bit hungry, for something other than breakfast. Maybe I should have been more specific last week in updating Inviting Leadership. Inviting Community might should have been Inviting Education.