Saturday, March 06, 2010

Time and the Class of 2024

The Word Cloud from our discussion of the needs and attributes of the Class of 2024

Our school has asked us to imagine what attributes our students in the class of 2024 will have when they graduate, and how will our school need to change and adapt to meet their needs in the coming years.

We met to discuss this seemingly distant future with our Board's education committee and a group of curriculum leaders for grades PK-4. A wide ranging discussion ensued, including visions of the future demand for world resources and the resulting need to be more resourceful and environmentally aware, and the need to be connected globally, not just to impoverished countries that need a share of our bounty, but to cultures across the world that are as developed as ourselves and therefore give us a different perspective on ourselves. We wondered about how to balance the future of online courses and connections with the eternal need for personal relationships and emotional growth and development. There was hope we will provide our students with the tools and attitudes that will make them innovators, creators, and collaborators.  But the conversation just kept coming back to one main theme: we need to give them time.

Time pervaded all of the discussion, as can be seen in the word cloud. Time for students to relax and discover things, to play outside in unstructured moments, time to delve into a subject that inspires them and actually take their ideas to a conclusion, time to breathe and cultivate their thinking, time to focus on studies that are important to their development without the burden of homework for homework's sake. Of course the time issue related to our teachers as well: time to learn new ways of approaching students, time to develop authentic ways to integrate technology, to teach more languages, to be able to offer service learning experiences both locally and abroad.

The big questions that emerged in the end was the ever-present issue of our school schedule, both daily and the annual school calendar. In order to offer additional language courses, the opportunity to explore robotics or other engineering in depth, to develop meaningful relationships across neighborhoods and borders must we extend the school day? the school year? Do we change the schedule to a more European model where school sessions are punctuated by longer, more frequent breaks but school continues through most of the summer?

It will take much creative thinking and willingness to change our familiar routines to meet the goals of our lofty brainstorming. There are solutions, but they are not necessarily rooted in our current conceptions of what is important and therefore will require a leap into the unknown - not a leap educators are comfortable with as a rule. I look forward to continuing this discussion as our schools wrestles to define itself in the future.
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