It is my passionate belief that if we are to secure a healthy and livable future for the human species (and multiplicity of species that support healthy ecosystems) we need to be asking students not “what you want to be when you grow up?”; rather, “what problem do you want to solve to make your community a better environment for yourself, your family, and your community?” In other words, it’s respecting kids as co-creators of a sustainable future – now! Technology can be a powerful tool for helping teachers to do just that.
Our path to a sustainable future requires a transformation of education from a system that was designed to grade, sort, and separate (through rewards & punishments) to a self-organizing system that recognizes the value of each and every citizen as both teachers and learners – connected in a global learning community.
“Growing into schools of the future” is very much a reflection of my own professional path.
Near the end of my teaching years (1968-86) I was part of a self-organized group of junior high teachers who embodied much of the spirit articulated in Peter Senge’s Schools That Learn. I guess you could say that we were incurable innovators, continually imagining, promoting (and implementing when allowed) ways to make our school more student-centered, thematic, and connected to the community. Unfortunately, back in those days we didn’t have the legitimacy of a school improvement process, nor the leverage of standards, nor the autonomy to do much of anything beyond our individual classrooms. Ultimately, we ran out of growing room. In a few short years we all left the classroom.
My growth path was teacher union leadership (from local president to member of the NEA Executive Committee in 7 years). The most important lesson from my leadership experience was that my classroom experience was not unique. I witnessed a pattern of the system driving out, pushing out, and deliberately promoting creativity out of schools. I discovered that my peers in union leadership, like me, were also classroom escapees. During my six-year tenure on the Executive Committee I built a personal network – connecting with an emerging element of NEA leaders – concerned that our organization was putting a higher priority on helping members cope with the system rather than in mobilizing/empowering them to change it.
Today, in the midst of well-funded attacks on public education, there are opportunities to create professional growing room – for those who know how to use standards as a means to create autonomy, tap into the power of continuous improvement, and create virtual support systems via the wide array of tools and resources available on the world wide web.