Happy first day of Autumn! Wipe the sweat from your brow and raise a glass of iced lemonade to toast the changing of the seasons. And after watching the kids play soccer tomorrow morning – assuming games aren’t cancelled due to the heat index – you can head over to the state park and drop your beach blanket down in between the snow fences! Tip: if you’re looking for ice cream, I know the Dairy Creme at Chinook Pier is open through Sunday.
But no complaining. This is fuel for the soul before La Nina punches us in the gut in a couple of months. (Get your skis tuned now!)
From EdWeek (paywall) this week:
Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page aren’t shy about sharing the secret of how they came up with new products like Gmail and Google News: They allowed the company’s engineers to be creative. To be exact, they allowed their engineers to spend 20 percent of their work time on their own innovative passion projects… What if our K-12 schools believed in students the same way that Google believes in its engineers and universities trust their professors? What if we had that same faith in our students’ talents and capabilities?
Several years ago, as a middle school teacher at a Title I public school in New Haven, Conn., I told my 8th graders that for one period per day, they could spend time solving a problem they cared about instead of doing traditional schoolwork. Doing so changed my classroom: After years of teaching standards, I began teaching students.
We started by brainstorming students’ concerns about the world. They noticed that TV cameras rolled into the neighborhood when there was a murder, but not when good things happened. They were concerned about police brutality and a lack of trust between officers and teenagers. They worried about how the media portrayed young people, particularly young people of color like themselves, as uncaring rather than as the impassioned and curious people they are.
We then worked together to create standards-based projects that addressed those concerns. We developed the same skills students in other classes were learning, but we did so for real reasons. We built a website where they researched and reported their own stories for an online audience, responding to events in the news and paying attention to what the news overlooked. We designed a campaign to reduce stereotypes of officers and teenagers that students presented at the local police academy. We started a neighborhood museum at our school to celebrate the stories of our community.
… None of this was for a grade or because I, as their teacher, told them to. Instead, they did it because they could—and because they wanted to. Though I have since left the classroom, I still hear about the ways my students are making a difference at their high schools.
The traditional method of mass education starts with a curriculum and fits it to students’ needs. Too often, students’ interests exist separately from school, and they complete assignments for their teacher’s eyes only. Personal passion is too often missing from our classrooms.
As teachers, we should approach education the other way around: by starting with our students and then shaping a curriculum around them. When we give our students real responsibility to tackle problems connected to their interests, they flourish.
A few more pieces on innovation:
From Getting Smart, Why Factory-Model Change Won’t End the Era of Factory-Model Schools. As Albert Einstein said, ““We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”
Shared on our Facebook page: Why more and more high schools are acting like start-ups: “Mission statements about innovation are a lot more common than the real thing. The most successful schools do more than get tablet computers in the classroom — they rethink instruction altogether. At Leyden High Schools in Franklin Park, Illinois, ninety percent of all tech-support tasks are now handled by high schoolers. Students are encouraged to develop business plans for startups and use school facilities to videoconference with mentors in the business world.”
Find yourself some pumpkin spice sunscreen and go enjoy this crazy weather!