"It's incumbent upon schools to introduce children to things they don't yet know they love." - Gary Stager
I have been contemplating my latest blog update for a few days... working through what topics I want to discuss, what topics to avoid, and which points I should make as I continue this new endeavor of opening up an independent school for Bismarck/Mandan. Should I talk about student-driven classrooms? Should I delve into the Reggio Emilia approach? Should I share the short animated film that makes me cry each and every time I watch it? Maybe I should talk about learning by doing and inventing to learn? And then, I was listening to a webinar about FabLabs, constructionism, Seymour Papert, and makerspaces when Gary Stager (an advocate for progressive education) said the quote above, and I was struck with the simplicity of the calling that I am following by opening The Innovation School.
I want to introduce children to things they don't yet know they love.
Isn't that beautiful?
The past few weeks have been a whirlwind since announcing the opening of The Innovation School for this fall 2017. I have been interviewing teachers, holding parent meetings, and working on the construction of the building. I have also held my children as they get ready to wrap up their school year and say goodbye to our school. A school that has been very good to us. A school full of friendships and collaborations that we will all miss. We have cried over leaving and it has taken great trust as I move forward... both trust in myself and this idea and trust from my children that this new adventure will be worth it.
All because I feel called to introduce children to things they don't yet know they love. Not called to introduce them to math and science, teach them to read, take proper notes, pass tests, and spell from memory. Not introduce them to a rigid daily schedule where there is no time for play and community building, simply because the day is too filled with other objectives. Not introduce them to a teacher who loves each and every student but finds it hard to find time to truly build strong relationships with each one because her classroom has 20-30 students. Not introduce them to an environment that values efficiency over effectiveness... a place where teaching is no longer an art, but is a science and follows a strict script.
My heart has been calling to me to dive into this for a few years now, and I could no longer ignore it. Or push it aside and hope for a better year next year. And so I trust it. And I push forward. The best, and most amazing part? Educators get it. They want to see me succeed. They cry when they share with me... about missed opportunities to get to know students better or when they have students who are labeled as "difficult" or "high maintenance" and they know they will be treated differently the next year. They cry when they see students on several medications and deeply feel that if the environment were different, that child would be successful without needing it. They cry when they see kids stressed out about taking tests and there is nothing they can do but keep encouraging them to do the best they can. They cry when they make a mistake and lose their temper with their students. But, like me, they are following a calling. Teachers have hearts of service and they feel called to serve and help others by teaching.
Isn't that beautiful? And so we journey together, through our tears.
The Innovation School strives to be a beacon for change. A place where not only student creativity and autonomy are valued, but so is teacher creativity and autonomy. A place where children can be exposed to things they do not yet know they love. This idea is so important... these children are our future!
At The Innovation School, we value something different. We value students as capable and competent. We value teachers as leaders, artists, and changemakers. And we value following our unique callings as we help children find their unique place in the world.
This video is from a small start up school in South Africa. Lauren Davis and I have been communicating via email regarding our ventures. When I see the success and excitement that surrounds the first year of her school, I am invigorated by this adventure The Innovation School is on. We are not alone in valuing something different. There are innovative schools popping up around the world, not just around our country.
Please consider becoming one of our "founding families" and enroll your children in our school for this fall. The transformation they will undergo will be priceless!
Value Something Different
As I have been discussing The Innovation School in the community these past 3 weeks, I have created a new mantra... "Value Something Different". To enable change and create culture and mind shifts, we have to be willing to value something different. In education, should the value be on data, test scores, and rigid curriculum guides? Or can we step back and value our students as capable of driving their learning? Can we value our teachers as experts in creating a learning environment for our children?
At The Innovation School, we work hard to value something different. To us, "Human Resources" is not about resources for humans... instead it's humans AS resources. Our students are resources for our teachers to delve into and learn about. Our teachers are resources with hearts of service, who strive to help students grow day in and day out and who are competent, creative beings capable of leading our students on their learning continuum. Our parents and families are resources that can contribute to our community of learning in a variety of ways. We value humans as resources.
I have been overwhelmed by the support and excitement from educators in our community. Teachers are eager to create curriculum, eager to work in a more flexible environment, and eager to have more time to connect with individual students in a deeper way. This gives me great hope that the paradigm shift needed in education is headed in the right direction.
Maggie Barth - Director and Founder of The Innovation School