Friday, February 24, 2012

zen mind beginner's mind

No matter our age, our profession, or our passion we are always students. It is in our interest to retain a beginners mind - open and receptive, and ready to learn. With this philosophy guiding me I spent the last two days visiting and observing in schools. I am fortunate enough to have a friend at the Dwight School's Woodside Preschool who graciously let me in to observe all day long. And today I was lucky enough to visit Bank Street's School for Children and spend time in their 4/5 classrooms. There's a lot that could be said - but really it is just best to visit if you can.

Before leaving Bank Street, the admissions director gave me a folder filled with writings and more information about the school. There were two small books, titled Progressive Education in Context: I and II. Within these small treasures were eloquent musings on education from their own teachers and one from Alfie Kohn. I'm providing a link for this because it is a wonderful article to read - and should give us all an invitation to reflect on our own practices and educational beliefs.

I would like to share one small passage from the article (linked above) about deep understanding.
As the philosopher Alfred North Whitehead declared long ago, “A merely well-informed man is the most useless bore on God’s earth.” Facts and skills do matter, but only in a context and for a purpose. That’s why progressive education tends to be organized around problems, projects, and questions — rather than around lists of facts, skills, and separate disciplines. The teaching is typically interdisciplinary, the assessment rarely focuses on rote memorization, and excellence isn’t confused with “rigor.” The point is not merely to challenge students — after all, harder is not necessarily better — but to invite them to think deeply about issues that matter and help them understand ideas from the inside out. 
As a nation we have a great deal to think about in regard to how we view children and education. As policy continues the trend of reaching in the opposite direction of research and experience - educators - have a lot to consider. Articles like this are necessary because they push us to consider - what really matters.

If you are in the NYC area - what are some other great schools to visit and observe?

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