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Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

I love Carrie’s last post, where she described Blitzen’s school as a “controlled not controlling environment.”  A couple of commenters (we love commenters) asked about the school, which is probably my cue.  I feel Carrie nudging me from 8,000 miles away.

Blitzen attends a progressive independent school that believes that education begins with the individual kid: her experiences, interests, questions, hopes and fears.

Her school values community — Blitzen works in close partnership with her nine delicious, diverse classmates and with a team of brilliant, diverse teachers.

Her school thinks that learning should be filled with exploration, discovery, collaboration, creativity, passion and joy.

Her teachers have the autonomy to follow their own talents and passions, and that of their students.  There is no pre-packaged, one-size-fits-all curriculum.  There is no standardized testing.

Her school tries to connect learning to the real world, believing that kids can make a positive impact on society right now.  It operates from a place of great privilege, and tries to acknowledge privilege and power while striving for equity and justice.

One commenter asked how Blitzen’s school compares to KIPP, a network of charter schools targeted to families in underserved neighborhoods.   My least snarky answer is that Carrie and I, like most higher SES families with an array of educational options, don’t send our kids to schools that organize around constant testing, rewards/punishment, behavioral control and classroom call-and-response. Instead, we typically choose schools where kids can create, invent, make choices, build independence and develop higher level thinking skills.  I believe that underserviced kids deserve the same thing Blitzen deserves — schools where the environment is controlled but not controlling.

Carrie and I are happy to talk about education or NYC schools with anyone interested.  Not to get all bibliography on you, but a couple organizations I appreciate are IDEA and Rethinking Schools.

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I’ll echo Carrie Ann’s shout out to the Save Our Schools activism.   It was inspiring to listen to old heroes (Debbie Meier, Jonathan Kozol) and voices who were new to me (John Kuhn, Matt Damon, Jose Vilson).  It was energizing to be around folks who are passionate about education and equity.  I got a kick out of being interviewed by CNN (gotta work on my soundbites) and taking part in the planning and organizing workshops the next day.

I wish I had more patience or aptitude for the messy work of movement-building.  (IDEA are the folks leading that charge.)  My special ADD skill set makes me more apt to get lost in a maze of 1975 online boxscores than to build an infrastructure for systemic change.

Being a foster parent, though… As a distractable young grasshopper beginning my journey, it seems do-able.  Here’s why:

  1. The day-to-day goal is straightforwardish: Try to provide a supportive, loving, safe, joy-filled environment today; try to provide a supportive, loving, safe, joy-filled environment tomorrow.
  2. There’s an immediate feedback loop.  We should have a sense of when things are working and when they’re not.
  3. There are potential immediate rewards.  We’re not going to make measurable progress on transforming public schools today, but Blitzen might, at any time, say (like our friend Amelia) “If there is a shark in this lake we’re kayaking, it’s probably swimming the other way, right?”

There were going to be more items on that list, but I can already see that this post will look embarrassingly naive moments after it’s published.  If I learned nothing in MAPP class it’s that being a foster parent thrusts one into a world of uncertainty, frustration and messiness that would make the post-SOS-rally educator squabbles look freshly ironed laundry.

Botton line: There are lots of tasks in the world that I just can’t do.  I can’t wait in a line, take direction, get a degree, organize my desk, blog every day, mingle at a party, turn in work when it’s due, make travel plans more than a week ahead of time or match my outfit without a spreadsheet.  But I suspect that when you mix my good-natured goofiness with Carrie Ann’s thoughtfulness, insight, empathy and good judgement and the support of our spectacular Team o’ Backup Villagers, we can provide a pretty warm home for a small-to-medium-sized Wee.

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