“What beliefs guide your work in your school?”
I ask that question over and over when I visit schools and talk to teachers and leaders. And I’m not so much wondering what exactly those beliefs are (though, that’s important) as much as whether or not there is some collective belief system that undergirds the practice, and subsequently, how that’s shared and manifested in the classroom.
Take, for example, Beaver Country Day School in Massachusetts.
At Beaver everything we do is student-centered and future-focused. We recognize today’s students live in a world that’s different from the world 25 to 30 years ago and education needs to respond – just as it did in the late 19th century in the face of the Industrial Revolution. We believe students need to develop essential new skills, what we call the New Basics: creative problem-solving, collaboration, iteration, visual communication, empathy, tech & media literacy, and presentation skills.
And it’s not just a list; it’s a culture.
Prioritizing the development of these skills must live everywhere in the school – in 7th grade math and in 11th grade English, in science and in art, on the stage and on the turf. To gauge effectiveness of this approach, we use a pretty simple measuring stick. At any given time, in any scenario, our students need to be able to answer two key questions: “What am I doing?” and “Why am I doing it?”
If you really want to change what you are doing in schools, one of the “new basics” is to state what you believe, and make sure it’s contextualized in the realities of living an learning in the modern world.
Image credit: Patrick Tomasso