I couldn’t wait to graduate my traditional high school and get to college where, I was certain, “real learning” happened. Instead, college turned out to be advanced high school: teacher and text know stuff; I absorb it; I regurgitate it; I have no idea when I would use it after the test and forget it.

I transferred through 4 colleges before finding Prescott College, a tiny (400 students give or take) experiential college in Arizona. I experienced first hand “real learning” which was personal, self-directed, process AND product oriented, and experiential. Somehow, without being formally schooled in education reform, I had naturally known that learning could be flexible, rigorous, and all-consuming (think back to your childhood and the hours you gladly committed to hobbies or day dreams or projects of interest to you). I pushed myself more at Prescott College despite the fact that there were no grades. Brilliant.

Now, I am teaching in an essentially traditional charter school. I am doing all the things I never wanted to do as a teacher; all the things that my high school teachers did that made me want to become an educator so I could NOT do those things. I just did a two day training on the 7th grade state writing test and how to drill our kids to perform better on artificial test questions.

So, what do I think about reform?

I’m halfway through Linda Nathan’s The Hardest Questions Aren’t on the Test and am thinking she’s got a great point: with a framework in place, quality learning stays consistent even though technique or lesson plans or “curriculum” changes. I wonder if this concept could be applied to the field of education as a whole? Is it possible to develop national frameworks that identify what we value in education? Then, can states and schools be freed to create their own programs to meet those goals? Or is that too chaotic? I can see the value in developing students, nationwide, who graduate with consistent skills. A student should expect that the skills they graduate will be valid regardless of what or where their next step in life may be.

I suppose this is the problem: what ARE we preparing our students for? College? Business? Workplace? Citizenship? What will these things look like by the time our students graduate?

Whew. I am looking forward to (hopefully) creating clearer thoughts as we progress…..

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