Saturday, August 28, 2010

stuck in our ways

Know that we humans do not have to be stuck in our ways. We choose to do so.
-Andrew Razeghi

When some people hear about an education different than the one they received, it is easy to shrug and dismiss. After all, new ideas, whether they are good or bad, look the same in their infancy, and the more different these ideas appear, regardless of their quality, the easier they are to simply right off as being unrealistic and Utopian.

It's a hell-of-a lot safer to dismiss these ideas than propose them.

It's infinitely easier to cite the "real world" as a place that simply won't tolerate such ideas.

It's convenient to perpetuate what everyone else perpetuates.

"That was nice... now back to the real world." More apathetic words have never been spoken...

If we all resigned ourselves to the safe, the easy and the convenient and decided to take up permanent residence in the "real world", how would we ever aspire to anything more than what we have now?

Focus too much on the 'now' and you'll be sure never to arrive any where else.


  1. I feel like I am experiencing Dejavu! I just had this conversation with my husband regarding students and awards. He thinks I am 'dreaming' at my vision of students wanting to learn for learning and unfortunately there are several others around me that feel the same way as he does. Lucky for me I am what I preach and do things because I thought about them and I believe in them and not because that's the way it has always been done. :)

  2. Joe, I could not agree more. I love your "real world" argument. Things will always be the same if we do not challenge the "real world." People are afraid of new ideas because, as Seth Godin argues, their Lizard brain or resistance, wants it so. He says we have to fight that resistance and do what matters.

    To extend your argument into awards ceremonies, people say that awards are given out in the "real world," so why not schools. Well, it does not have to be that way. They use the "real world" argument because they are so afraid to dare think that each student has something to contribute. Every student deserves recognition but it is difficult for people to change their mindset.

    Anyway Joe, thanks for this post.

  3. Joe,
    Thank-you for addressing the "real world" comment, it is scary but it also has given me a great deal of insight.

  4. The first three days of teaching were interesting. The transformed classroom was comfortable for those students who had been in my class last year. The tables were new, but the emphasis on connected learning and freedom of movement and greater autonomy were not. Those students coming to me from more authoritarian environments, I won't say more structured, were unsettled. At the end of the first day when we reflected on learning as a group, some of these students voiced their concerns. I think they thought people were "getting away with misbehaviour" in my classroom. By Friday I think they were beginning to see the underlying structure of learning in my classroom. But I also addressed the factors that were making them uncomfortable. Things like noise level and some issues involving transitions.

    It was illuminating to see how quickly all of the class settled into occasional textbook and worksheet activities. It is what they are familiar with and that still matters to them. Connected learning and autonomous learning might be "natural" but we have accustomed them to not experiencing it.

  5. I agree. People may be more accepting of change if it's implemented in small steps. Early elementary classrooms are the perfect place to do this. There are ways to facilitate change while not alienating the "real world".

  6. Dealing with shrugs and dismissiveness...I know that well.

    My school (Windsor House) used to truly represent the idea of "alternative" and "innovative". We still remain the only "publicly-funded, democratic, parent participation, academically non-coercive K to 12 school" in North America. (That's a mouthful) However, over the years, many of the unique aspects of the school have been forcefully chipped away, due to bureaucratic interference and the punitive elements of the BC government's "accountability agenda".

    For years, many power players in the district have been extremely dismissive of our progressive ideas (i.e. personalized learning, democratic classrooms, play-based learning). Strangely, many of those same people now trumpet the concept of "21st Century Schools", which deeply incorporate many of those same elements.

    For 5 or 6 years, we have teetered on the edge of survival. The school community has fought valiantly for respect and acknowledgement within the district. Unfortunately, we have recently been told by the North Vancouver school district that we will be closed by the end of next year at the latest. The district has chosen to close all the alternative programs in the district and create its own version of a "21st century school", instead of nurturing an existing "21st century school" that has been in existence and innovating for 40 years. Sigh....

    If you have an interest in education reform or innovative school models, you can check out this documentary video on Windsor House from 6 or 7 years ago... although much has changed.


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