My thoughts about school:
Kids are not passive containers into which we pour knowledge. They need to take an active role in their learning.
You can’t inspect quality in. Testing and more testing isn’t going to improve schools. Instead we must focus on improving the process of learning, removing any structural barriers that inhibit learning.
A safe, trusting environment, free from fear, is a prerequisite for learning.
The more kids focus on how well they are learning, the less interested they become in what they are learning. There are much more effective and less destructive ways of evaluating students than simply giving letter grades.
Each child is unique and will learn different subjects at different times. Forcing all kids to move at the same pace through the same curriculum is not helpful.
Each child has unique interests, and giving children the ability to study subject areas in which they have intrinsic interest helps them find joy in learning. Graduating from high school or even college only confers a license to learn – the journey has only just begun at graduation, so a love of learning is critical for future development.
Children learn to make good choices by actually making choices. Wherever possible, kids should be part of decision making, especially with decisions that impact their lives.
Children learn the intrinsic value of being good citizens in a community by helping to build and maintain a community. Learning to cooperate with others not only teaches the value of cooperation, but it also promotes an effective social learning environment.
Teachers have enough to deal with in the classroom without compounding the problem with pressure and fear exerted by school administration. A faculty environment free from fear is necessary if we want to create a safe environment for the students.
It can take a long time to develop trust and bonding between a teacher and students, especially with kids who don’t have a strong sense of security at home. So it’s important for a teacher to be able to spend more than a year with her students.
Subjects should not be divided up arbitrarily (math, reading, writing, social studies, etc.) but rather taught together in a meaningful context. While studying the Civil War, for example, you’d expect opportunities for both reading and writing, but you will also find opportunities to present meaningful math problems within that context.
We should be teaching less topics in more depth.
We should value and respect students as individual human beings with their own thoughts and opinions. I see a remarkable lack of respect for young people among many educators (and parents!)
We shouldn’t be just facilitating kids learning. Facilitate comes from the root, “to make easy”. Rather we need to stimulate and guide their learning, by making their problems more complex, involving, and arousing.
The children are our future – an aim should be a more just society.