This past weekend I got to see my mom for a few days. We were talking about her job and how she’s been interviewing teachers for her school (she’s a principal at an elementary school in North Carolina). As one of the biggest advocates for transformative education, when she interviews teachers she wants to know how they might change the education system or how they’d change up the classroom routine to get kids more engaged. She told me that a lot of the time the teacher being interviewed is so shocked to hear questions not about whether or not they know how to create lesson plans, or why they think they’re qualified for the job, that they almost immediately freeze up and wind up not being able to fully answer the question.
To me that was rather interesting seeing as I’ve never actually thought about what questions I would ask if I were trying to implement transformative education into my school. How do you know that you’re hiring the right person for the job when it comes to thinking about shaping schools for transformative education? It can definitely be tough considering I feel like many teachers don’t exactly know what transformative education is yet, meaning they don’t know how to answer questions like the ones my mom was throwing at me.
One question stood out very clearly to me though. As we began to say goodbye she asked me, “If there were no constraints of money, time, or laws, what would the ideal school look like to you?” I was baffled, to be honest. “Think about it,” she told me. That was one of the questions she had recently asked a teacher in an interview, and when she asked it the teacher wasn’t sure how to respond.
“I don’t want teachers to tell me they know how to do lesson plans, and I don’t want them to make up some answer that they think I want to hear. I want them to think outside of the box and show me that they can be creative.” My mom really is something, huh? She always keeps me on my toes, and I can see why she’s such a force to be reckoned with in the education system. She’s always looking for ways to better education, which means she’s always looking for teachers who understand that there are different ways to create a great classroom for kids, and it’s not necessarily from what they learned in school.
So, I wanted to ask you the same question: If there were no constraints of money, time, or laws, what would the ideal school look like for you?
I’ve been pondering that question for a while now, and I think I have an answer. If I could create a school with no constraints, I would make every school equal. Every school would have updated books, the best technology, and kids would be doing meditation when they get in trouble instead of getting detention. Every school would be given the same amount of funding despite where they are located. Every teacher would be getting the pay they actually deserve, and school would be year round with breaks every so often. Teachers would be using project based learning in the classrooms so that kids could have the chance to learn about what they love while making a project they’re excited about to go along with the knowledge they’ve just gained. No homework allowed—only work in class. Recess is mandatory for an hour every day, because I mean they’re kids, guys; they need to get out all of that energy at some point.
Standardized testing would be minimal, and instead of being the focus of education it would simply be tool to actually test what kids have learned and not just what they were taught to memorize for the class. This also means that Special Ed kids and those who fall behind the learning curve don’t get punished for not understanding the material or not being able to keep up, but instead are worked with to go at their own paces and take their time learning new material. There would be no penalty for schools who don’t meet the “standards” of the government meaning that every school can focus on actually teaching kids instead of focusing on whether or not test scores are good enough to pass the test.
Lunches would be healthy and not the crap we feed our kids now. Kids who come from lower classes and can’t afford to eat would be given breakfast and lunch for free. Field trips would be frequent so that kids could get out of the classroom and learn from the experiences instead of from lecturing or reading. And last but not least, I would create a school where kids want to learn so much to the point that they come in excited almost every day for the new project they’ll be doing or the activities that their teacher will be having them do. I aspire to create a school that is great for everyone, and not one that is focused on making sure they’re passing the standards the government has. I aspire for our government officials who represent the educational community to actually have a background in education. No politicians, just educators.
Yes, my vision for school is very different from what we have now. And yes, if I ever were to become a teacher or a principal then I would very much try to begin transforming my classroom or school into the vision I have. If I don’t begin to pave the way, then who will? One thing that my mom has taught me is to be the change I wish to see in the world, and I absolutely plan on doing that.
So today I leave you with something to think about: what would your perfect vision of school be? Take some time to really dig deep and think about every aspect. Write it down, meditate on it, do whatever you need, but take at least five minutes and think about how you would transform our educational system. Then, take that plan and try to put it into action in whatever way possible. Get involved with your school and district more. Ask leaders tough questions. Really think about what these kids need for the future of education, and begin doing those things.
But, whatever you do, don’t just wait around for some kind of change to happen or fall into your lap. Get up and make things happen. Be the change–their future is in your hands.