When I participated in a teacher training program a number of years ago, I was fortunate in being assigned to a magnet school on Manhatten’s Upper West Side- where I worked with two very different and very original teachers. The two classes of grade four students were deemed gifted and housed within a regular neighbourhood school. In reading recently about the rush of parents in New York to sign students up for gifted programs I had the wonderful experience of recalling those days at the beginning of the Sarah Anderson School for the Gifted, when the school was still in its growth stage and when Principal and teachers maintained open doors. I now live in Toronto, Canada, and was pleased to note how this school, then occupying a few floors within the PS 9 building is today one of the most established programs for the Gifted and Talented in Manhattan. Kudos to the Principal I worked with during that practicum period.
– In one of the classes was a young fellow named Adam whose parents were NYC police offiers- the father had been killed in action, the mother, a single parent brought him daily to the school, entering the side doors as all parents of the magnet community did. Young Adam was on the school’s cafeteria meal plan. This meant that at lunch time he had to wait until the elementary classes were served- and would sit and watch the PS 9 students hungrily, while his classmates in the Sarah Anderson program ate their brought from home lunches- Adam was daily out of sync- and aware of it. When I brought this observation to the Principle she acted immeadiately, arranging for Adam to be served upon entering the cafeteria and allowing him to eat with his classmates; a small gesture, but a strong one. I as student, had access to the Principal, a Principal who valued input from her staff- even staff that was transient- the way a student is bound to be. The concept of collaborative leadership had been applied directly- removing it from an ideal in a textbook to a living demonstration of care. Not only Adam, but I too benefited from this example of responsive leadership.
I nearly wrote Brand New Earth, with this past week featuring so many activities around the theme of “Earth Day” the focus on cleaning up, recycling and encouraging caring for the planet became contagious; all around I could see effort being made to get outside and engage with nature.
I am always impressed by how quickly younger children will not only participate in the Earth Day programs at their school, but also how the students become advocates for greener living once they understand the purpose behind the suggested changes.
-sending a global “thank you” to fellow educators for sharing great resources and posting a few links below:
http://erblearn.org/parents/admission/isee for parents considering private school come September
http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7393502n interview with Sam Eshaghoff:Sam Eshaghoff is a teenage con. He took the SAT for other students, who paid big money for high scores. Now that he’s been caught, Sam has some test-taking advice, but consider the source.
Some have a belief that school is not real- that real life begins only upon graduation- I wonder, in today’s age of fast pacing and career switching, how any could still suggest that the place students are expected to spend at least 12 years of their lives is not “real”. A microcosm perhaps, but nevertheless, very real in the social-cultural, and physical-material sense. And is school an audition? another idea that appears to be floating – No. School is the way in which the majority of children are socialized and when the fit is right- children thrive- when wrong the blisters not only burst but chafe so deeply the right space might still feel too constricting.
While homeschooling may provide an answer and is increasingly an option for those who have the time to devote to not only searching out places that will provide stimulation and feed the curiousity of the learners ( museums, art spaces, public performances, lunch time forums, construction sites, people watching ..) for the majority a school- regardless if private or public, remains the full time space where one’s children attend to daily rituals of practice- practicing communication skills, practicing public participation, practicing organizational skills, practicing physical skills, practicing the give and take of learning- practicing.
And it is the curriculum that determines what gets practiced. April is when many parents begin to question the past year’s choice of schooling and wonder if new arrangements ought to be made for the following September. Things I encourage parents to look for in a school when touring a new space go beyond the basics- not just the physical structure and the size of the rooms, but importantly the sounds one hears when walking the halls; are the sounds coming from the classrooms representative of students’ voices? Do the walls feature student work? Is there an energy even outside the grounds? For elementary students, what appears to be happening during lunch time recess? For junior high school students, are the activities/clubs posted of the type your child may express interest in joining? In a Senior High students should be visible- activities are ongoing and classes more individualized- visit at more than one point during the day and notice how students move about…
School is the “real world” for students while they are moving through it; help them understand and appreciate how growth in any direction can require a new fitting, and believe in them when they are ready to practice something new.
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Tagged April, challenges beliefs, change, dealing, education, learning, lessons, practicing, real world, school, tutoring