Recently, I have been participating in an awesome book study group for “The Innovator’s Mindset” by George Couros. The IMMOOC community is stretching me to think about education in different ways and has reassured me that there are so many influential educators who are looking for something more for our kids! I highly recommend that ALL educators and adminstrators read George’s book. I can feel the pendulum starting to swing with current trends in education and this book is the force we have been waiting for. We must move to get things moving! We must do better.
For week 2 we were offered the challenge of designing our ideal or dream school. I LOVE this challenge. Dreaming and imagining are two things I am good at. When I began brainstorming for what I would want at my DREAM school I realized it all boiled down to building joy in three main groups: Happy Teachers, Happy Kids, Happy Parents.
My Dream School
1. Happy Teachers. Duh, right? At my Dream School the teachers are happy. They are valued as professionals by the adminstrators and community. The salary for my dream teachers will reflect the very important work they do-educate and care for our most precious gifts for the future. My Dream School teachers are happy to collaborate with their peers. Competition is not present at this school. Everyone is focused on a mission of building each other up and learning from each other’s differences. The teachers love working at the Dream School. Since they feel appreciated, valued, and not threatened they take more risks and try new innovative things in the classroom. They have a shared focus of building genuine and authentic relationships with all students. There is not a sense of these are my kids those are your kids. My Dream Teachers know they are OUR kids. The Dream Teachers have the ability to have fun, be silly, smile, and laugh with their students. There are still standards and high expectations at My Dream School because we must have something that drives us. However, the teachers have the flexibility and freedom to decide how to reach those standards and HOW they would like to evaluate where their kids are. Class sizes are low and reasonable. My Dream Teachers feel comfortable teaching the standards based on how the kids want to learn. The students’ interests are what drive instruction in the classroom. Project based and inquiry learning are the cornerstones of our school. All subjects are connected so there is no need for this nonsense of “I only have time to teach Science this quarter and I can teach Social Studies next quarter.” That hogwash is out the window. Classrooms are designed to fit the styles and needs of the teachers and kids they serve. If a Dream Teacher wants to try flexible seating all accommodations are made to easily serve their classroom. The teacher’s lounge is a loving environment with positive conversations and lots of fun. Lunch is catered daily and there’s a Starbucks counter in the lounge. We are dreaming, right? So we might as well go big.
2. Happy Students. For this component I did some very fancy market research and asked my own children what would make them happiest at school. Guess what they answered? MORE RECESS. That’s a no brainer. Our students need time to release energy, socialize, and recharge their little brains. At my Dream School we have P.E. daily. The students meditate every morning before even beginning their day. Students feel loved by the teachers and know that every adult in the building is rooting for them and a source of encouragement. Lunch is a solid 40 minutes. The lunch choices are healthy and homemade. The kids can leisurely eat while visiting with friends versus inhaling what they can and rushing outside for a short 10 minute recess. Students know that they have autonomy and choice in the classroom. They are happy to participate in all lessons implemented because their interests are driving instruction. There is ample amount of time to talk during the day and the teachers continually are interested in eliciting the students’ ideas. Not a single teacher is baking cookie cutter thinkers. All bakers are catering their recipes to bake creative thinking. It tastes much better. The traditional grading system is long gone. At the Dream School we are focused on implementing strategies to foster life-long learners so there is no need for labeling our kids as As, Bs, or Cs. Students do not receive formal homework assignments. Students are always free to work on projects at home that interest them and read as many Harry Potter novels as their hearts desire. The focus for home time should be to play, enjoy family, and recharge for more fun the next day. The loss of the stresses of homework is what makes my next group the happiest: The Parents.
3. Happy Parents. These guys are thrilled that their kids love school and are happy. They feel wonderful that every adult in The Dream School is supporting and encouraging their child. There is no need for obnoxious PTA politics because every parent at the school contributes joyfully in the way that best suits their abilities. The Dream Parents understand that their children are receiving an education on more than simply learning to be good test takers. The parents support and love the idea that their children are learning to be creative/innovative thinkers. They have noticed big differences in how their kids have learned to problem solve at home. The Dream Parents love the school so they want to support it in any means possible, especially if this means supporting the teachers! The Dream Parents never strive to cut down or hurt the teachers. There is a mutual respect shared between parent and educator. The Dream Parents see their role in their child lives as co-teachers and want to do whatever they can to make that role meaningful.
The main reason the Dream Parents are so pleased with the school is because their kid is happy! The main reason the Dream Student is happy is because their teacher is happy! See the pattern? It all begins with teacher. If teacher ain’t happy, nobody is happy. We must enable our educators to return into a state of joy with their careers. I believe this can be done! Imagining my Dream School was fun and honestly, most of the wishes and dreams are not that far out of reach. I could have added 100 more wishes. What would you add to your Dream School?