How I Would Rebuild Schools

Today’s #edchat topic:  If Bulldozers Plowed Down Your School Building, What Would You Build to Replace It?

It was 110 degrees on a record-setting heat wave in June, 2015.  The construction workers were exhausted and began their new project . . . demolishing buildings on the corner of Main and Foothill.  They bulldozed the entire lot in one day in order to beat the heat. 

After the job was completed, the foreman received a phone call.  “Where are you guys?” 

“What do you mean, we just finished demolishing the building on Main and Foothill,” said the Foreman.

“Oh, you don’t say,” said the man on the other line.  “And what city are you in?”

“Chino Hills.”

“Well, I am standing on the corner of Main and Foothill in CORONA, where you are supposed to be demolishing the buildings.”

“Oops.”

Following a tirade of curse words by the man in charge of the project, hot heads calmed down and realized they needed to develop a solution. The owner was extremely wealthy and, more for public relations reasons than anything else, he put a positive perspective on the costly mistake.  He made a promise to local citizens; he said he would rebuild the school so that it would tranform the way education was done, improving the lives of many.  That is when I was brought in; to aid in the process of transforming education and bringing it up to date.

One of the things that always frustrated me about the education system were the requirements that students had to meet in order to progress through school.  Often times, especially at the High School level, I heard students say, “When are we ever going to use this in real life?”  A legitimate question, and even as a teacher sometimes it was tough to come up with a satisfactory answer other than, “It’ll be on the test.”  That question can be asked in any subject, English, Math, History, ect. It’s not that these subjects are unimportant, but our educational system fails to demonstrate the benefits of these subjects in order to encourage participation from students. 

Passion needs to be a part of education. Teachers’ goals should be to assit children in finding their passions and to align themselves with the passions they’ve already discovered.  Schools failed to do this for most children, for the simple fact that children are all different.  It was impossible for educators in the classrooms, with the demands placed on them to teach state standards, to address each child’s needs in their classroom. 

Sometimes we hear about brilliant minds, who never even graduated from High School.  Albert Einstein, widely considered one of the smartest men ever, comes to mind.  Had Albert Einstein stayed in school, I doubt we would think of him as we do today.  He developed his passion and ran with it. Most schools remove passion and creativity.  Thier central focus is on conformity.  Every student had to know this or that.  No Child Left Behind and State Standards are passion and creativity killers. 

Every child is born with passion and every child yearns to be creative and it’s time that we allow them to do so.  My school of the future focuses entirely on inspiring and encouraging creativity.  In today’s world, we can give students technological tools in order to help them achieve their dreams.  We should put in place a system where learning takes place for individual children based on their desires and passions.  These students will then have access to computers where programs can help guide them through the learning process.  Teachers can issue assignments for individual students based on mutually agreed upon objectives.  The student then performs what is required to become succesful and can document their journey online through the use of blogs or similar types of online venues.  Teachers can evaluate their online portfolios and give daily suggestions to increase understanding of the subject.  Once they are done with the project, the teacher issues a new project that will help broaden the child’s knowledge while still encouraging their passion and creativity.

Teachers no longer need to know all the answers like they did in the days of the past, because students can find all the answers they need themselves.  Instead, the teacher should have a solid base of general knowledge and should be able to guide students towards activities that the students are passionate about.  Then the teacher needs to become a student.  Let the student teach the teacher about a new subject and answer his or her questions on the topic.  We all know that 90% of what we teach we learn.  So, in a much bigger way than before, let the students be the teachers. 

For example, lets say a student’s passion is fashion design.  The teacher and student discuss ways that the student can demonstrate knowledge of the project to the teacher.  From the beginning to the end of the process, students will need to use math, be able to read and write reports, and work with their hands.  The teacher is in charge of pushing the progress of the student along in an efficient manner and make corrections or recommendations for improvement.

The bulldozing of the school in the Summer of 2015 was the greatest thing for the community.  The children went from going through the motions of schooling to being excited to go to school.  The nerdy kids that everyone made fun of for trying hard in school dissappeared because all the students loved learning.  And as a result, the community thrived. People were creative, people were passionate, and people lived.

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