Where I work we are trying to remove the trench metaphor through space and curriculum changes…

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(above) Writing via the high school library music studio

One of the things that industrial education did was to, perhaps, create these unnatural battle fronts — a single teacher, back to the wall, defending her/his turf against a hoard of supposedly interchangeable students.

What if we changed all those forms?

What if the spaces belonged to students? What if teachers were experts welcomed in to these student studios? What if teachers never worked with their backs up against the teaching wall?

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(above) middle school students hacked their cafeteria with these rolling treehouses. Built and designed by students via iterative design over two weeks.

What if students were treated as respected members of a learning community from day one — and every day — by every adult in the building?

What if teachers were not in rooms alone but entered these learning studios as teams? What if their job was not the performance of the lecture but the service of the learning expert?

What if curriculum was driven by student choice? By student passion, and kids wanted to be there?

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(above) math learning comes in many forms

So we have rebuilt our libraries with everything from 3D printers to music studios to hacker zones. We have created open shops in our secondary schools so kids can use their hands and minds together. Now we are pushing away from single teacher classrooms and away from age-based education. Our newest elementary learning spaces hold up to 120 kids — K-5 — and six teachers. Our secondary spaces bring all core subjects together and give kids a team of adult support.

Teachers who collaborate in a ninth grade studio combining language arts, history, algebra, and physics, and who work with a team of kids half the day, every day, tend to not use war metaphors to describe their days. Rather they talk of excitement and joy.

Schools can change. That change is the real work. But that again should not be described as “war.” That is building our ‘city on a hill.’

  • Ira Socol

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