Tuesday, February 07, 2006

While the wind hasn't shifted...

... I do seem to have a found a lull in the breeze.

I'm hoping the lull is because schools are beginning to nail down their faculty and administrative needs for next year... rather than, well, something else...

It's like when the boss calls you in to the office, you always expect the worst; and, nine times out of ten, you're wrong.

I'm working on an educational philosophy, or guiding principles, statement. At the moment, all I have are scribbles in a well-worn composition notebook.
  • College prep does not mean the school prepares students for freshman year at college. Rather, I see it as a mission to (1) prepare students for four-years of success and (2) turn them into life-long learners. We need to turn each student on to something, whether it's history or architecture or dance or fiction or plants or sailing.

  • One role of adults in a boarding school is to balance support with challenge. For those that remember their developmental psychology, yes, this looks a lot like Chickering's psychosocial theory of student development. Hmmm. Maybe I was paying attention during the course work for the first master's degree.

  • Good secondary, independent schools are not about regurgitation of facts. As a teacher -- and all adults in a boarding school are teachers -- I want students to learn to think, to use facts in new situations, to get beyond dates and plot summaries. I like the idea of exhibition and defense as proposed by Sizer and the Coalition of Essential Schools. And, yes, I've read their Common Principles. Hopefully, I haven't plagiarized; they make sense to me, however. In many ways, they seem like common sense. And, yes, as you can tell, these principles have had an impact on my own thinking.

  • We want students to see themselves as citizens of the school community, of the United States, and of the earth. They have an obligation to themselves, their heirs, and their neighbors -- even those "neighbors" who live in the jungles of Brazil or the mountains of Tibet.

  • Learning happens everywhere in a boarding school, in the classroom, on the playing fields, on the deck of a boat, in the dining hall, in a dormitory room, and in a faculty home. And, learning happens when it is least expected... for the teacher. Students learn when we, as the adult, don't think it is a learning moment. Surprise! Every moment, particularly the unscripted, is a learning moment.

  • Small is good. While Gladwell might suggest schools should be no larger than 150 people, I'm not sure that is possible. Certainly, 600 students is too large. Maybe 450 is, too; I'm not sure. I don't think it is possible for a school to be too small, at least from a learning (not fiscal) perspective.

  • Key stakeholders -- administrators, faculty, board members, students, parents, alumni -- all need to be intentional in their creation of a school. A school is a system, and a systems perspective is necessary; and, a school is something that ought to be created first in the minds eye and in the lives of the stakeholders.

  • Transparency is a good thing; transparency is a great thing; transparency is a necessary thing. I believe in transparency in decision making, budgeting, policy creation and implementation, grading rubrics, expectations, and other things I can't even remember to list here.
Now, if I could just craft these ramblings into something coherent...

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