I remember my personal “teaching mindshift” as if it were yesterday. I was walking through the halls of New Tech High in Coppell, a project based learning school. I was shocked at seeing kids roaming about, working in small groups, discussing, debating, working in classrooms with cell phones out, laughing, making videos to share with the world…ON YOUTUBE!! In my school, that didn’t happen…at all. All of it seemed to be against policy. All of it.
I left that school that day as a different teacher and never looked back. I wanted IN…because what grabbed my entire being wasn’t even the aforementioned things but the pure joy that kids had while learning and sharing their school community.
That was new…Community.
The other day, I started re-reading Chris Lehmann and Zac Chase‘s book, Building School 2.0: How to Create the Schools We Need. There is one quote that specifically struck a nerve with me as it took me back to years ago at New Tech High, where what kids were doing and learning was more evident through the work itself than it was as an isolated phrase on the wall. (see the image below)
It’s also the type of learning that one experiences at Science Leadership Academy, in Philadelphia…the school that serves as the inspiration from which the book was written. (You too can experience this by attending Educon in Philly 1/29-1/31…and you should.)
Making the switch from traditional practices to inquiry isn’t easy. As a matter of fact, it is downright hard…especially when you’re the only one in the school doing it which is why I love Building School 2.0 so much. If we all are in this academic world to help our students be better people, no teacher should feel alone in this work and this is a book that entire communities can use as a catalyst for discussions.
It can’t be just one teacher. It needs to be a community (which you need to build and that’s in the book too).
This book didn’t exist when I was in the classroom. I wish that it did.
I’m thankful that it exists now.
There were quotes from the book that spoke to my own beliefs as the ones below. (If you are wondering, I used an app called Adobe Post to craft each image)
Then, there were moments (and plenty of them) that made me think deeper such as learning about Consensus-Driven Decision Making. I will say that this one seemed most difficult for me. I posted a graphic to instragram and one of SLA Beeber’s Teachers, Mary Beth Hertz, commented my image to assure me that while consensus-driven decision making was hard, it was certainly worth it. My struggle here was in achieving this magical place called “consensus” when many in my environment struggle with connecting with the outside world. Mary Beth’s advice to identify questions/needs specific to our environment and make research a part of the process was a true awakening and what I needed to truly embrace this idea.
The greatest part of Building School 2.0, other than all of the words in it, are the “Theory to Practice” sections that are placed at the end of each theses. These are meant to drive conversations that hopefully lead to more questions and thoughts. These were the moments of reflection for me as it is where I saw my areas of growth the most and where many of my own questions derived.
Building the school that we need isn’t easy and the text doesn’t allude to a simplicity of growth but when we do what our students need, what is hard is just something that we’ll all work through because our kids and our teachers are worth it.
We’ve just got to.
And I’m only on theses 43.
Tip: Even if you are reading this book alone, you don’t have to. Find #school20 on twitter and connect with other readers! Or, nudge people in your building to read with you. I went on a sharing rampage on social media…all channels because I wanted to make sure that people in my circle knew that they needed this book too. I was pleasantly excited to hear of teachers in my own district that bought it because they saw the postings so we’ll be discussing it at length. Also, follow Chris Lehmann and Zac Chase on twitter. (@chrislehmann and @mrchase). Engage with them. 🙂