Tuesday, October 9, 2012

more about testing

As we continue to probe the best way to assess the kind of learning our children should be doing in school - learning that supports creative thinking, problem-solving, community connections, and other complex forms of thinking and acting - Alfie Kohn continues to remind us of our priorities. Click here to read his recent article: Schooling Beyond Measure.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

working with the faculty

On Friday the children stayed home from school, and the teachers and I dug into some intense and really important work.

We spent the morning thinking about the current position of the school and our hopes and plans for the direction in which it is going. We thought back on some of our history, and teachers who have been with us for a decade shared their perspective of the journey we have taken, while teachers new this year explained some of what they were experiencing as newly-minted members of the team.

We talked about the challenges the new building has brought us, as well as the benefits. We flagged the dangers of disconnection amongst the team, given that the geography of our space no longer forces us to see each other constantly. We discussed areas within the school building that have not really found their purpose yet, or their spirit of place. We recognized the intense effort that has gone and continues to go into the transition from one building to another, and everything that implies for our identity as a school and our way of being with the children and with each other. We were grateful for the fact that, in the midst of changes, we have reaffirmed our commitment to nature and outdoor exploration for the children.

Looking to the future, we talked about maintaining the vision of a school where the freedom, exploration, and joy of childhood are honored and supported. We discussed the need for systems that are organic enough to maintain flexibility, structures that have windows for unique opportunities and situations, and road maps from which we can usefully deviate. We invoked meaningful, purposeful work, an environment integrated with nature, and the deep connection of our children with teachers and community. We discussed our founder's initial vision of the school as a place where children would be technologically adept in a way that supported social and emotional development and remained in tune with nature and real world experience. A metaphorical image that resonated strongly was one of children running barefoot in the woods with computers.

In small groups, we discussed strategies to support our current need for greater connection with each other, so that we can work together more strongly on a common vision for the future. We made commitments to deeper and more intentional collaborative work, and dedicated time to that purpose. We brainstormed options for creating more time that would be flexible enough to support this need. We discussed our developing understanding of how the space in (and outside of) our new building works and how we can use it more effectively.

The afternoon was dedicated to an ongoing discussion of student assessments; what can be assessed, what can't, how we can assess work and development in a way that truly supports education, is manageable, and is most meaningful to the student, the teacher, and parents. This is an extremely complex subject, and one that we will be dedicating time and thought to in an ongoing fashion indefinitely. Assessment strategies will be refined and revised as the world changes around us and we understand ever better how to produce a really useful result.

It was a fruitful and exhausting day, as professional development days should be. I am looking forward to continuing these discussions and plans with faculty and parents into the future.