A TED talk recently prompted me to dream about what I would do differently if I was a candle free to burn however I damn well pleased, without the constraints placed on candles by the candle bureaucracy.
I began to picture a school that wasn’t confined only to teaching to the National Curriculum, that didn’t have to prepare students for standardised testing.
A place where students experienced, in equal parts, passion and discipline.
Where student curiosity was rewarded and kids were entrusted with real things to explore.
Firstly, students wouldn’t have set classrooms with set teachers. They would be able to choose where and how they wanted to work: at stand-up desks while listening to music, lying or sitting on cushions in a small group on the floor, or in the outdoor classroom beside the school garden. They would know that they could go to any of three or four teachers to get help with their learning, and that their peers make good sounding posts too.
Secondly, students would have greater control over choosing their daily lessons. They would be well aware of their learning goals and be able to manage their time in order to work on each goal. They would regularly participate in focus lessons, as well as conferences with teachers, holding them accountable for their learning and keeping expectations high.
Thirdly, teachers wouldn’t give grades on report cards but instead support children in collecting learning artefacts for a portfolio that they would show to their teachers and parents at regular meetings. https://ateacherislikeacandle.wordpress.com/2015/07/01/are-grades-killing-student-motivation-to-learn/
This portfolio would document the progress the child has made in their learning throughout their primary school career. The walls would be full of documentation that make student learning visible.
Fourth, the majority of the day would be dedicated to projects, where children could solve real-world problems and create actual products. Play would be a priority. Community networks and partnerships would see pupils working with mentors from the real world and getting feedback about their designs.
Fifth, teachers would spend a lot less time talking and a lot more time listening. Teacher collegial discussions would be carefully scheduled in order to discuss student interests and ways to provoke their passions. Teachers would be encouraged to, supported with, and rewarded for, research and further study in the world of education.
And what would it look like and feel like to visit such a place?
When you walked around this school, you would see kids “leaning forward”, completely engaged in the joys of learning, excitedly arriving at school at 9 and reluctantly leaving at 3.
Educational stakeholders from around the world would flock to the buildings, travelling from afar on study tours, to witness students of varying ages working together in think tanks to tackle current issues of the times.
Circles of inquiry would pop up around the place, with kids discussing big, philosophical questions and considering different perspectives. Those listening in would be impressed with the clarity with which the students spoke, the respect they showed to one another and their ability to justify their opinions.
Thinking routines would be displayed prominently on surfaces to assist students with higher-order thinking and with maintaining rigour in their studies.
For now, my dream may be an unreachable utopia… but, what do you think, might we get there some day?
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