This week I was flattered to get to be a part of a trip to Northern VA and York, PA to visit schools that had recently been remodeled or rebuilt. The idea was to look for vision for a future remodel of the school where I currently teach. Along on the trip were 2 others teachers (one was my good friend and former roommate Jenn!), our assistant principal, the superintendent, director of secondary instruction, several school board members, and some staff from the city as well.
We had a great time and saw some interesting things, but I think the best part of the trip was not the seeing but the discussion that surrounded all the seeing. I'm blessed to be a part of school division that has some truly wise people for our leadership staff. It seems that our vision for a remodel for our school is much different than most people's. What we wanted to see was "the classroom of the future" where (in our minds) learning on several levels could take place simultaneously and there would be sufficient and efficient space in which to do this. Most people that we met with and schools we visited seemed to think that the classroom of the future just meant mounting a SmartBoard on the wall at the front of the class over the existing chalkboard. I was so proud to be a part of group of people who looked past just the current technology, recognizing that technology changes and comes and goes (smartboards will be out in a couple years as the next best thing replaces it), and looked to how we can be flexible in meeting in the needs of our students. Our priority was creating a space where teachers had the flexibility to meet students needs, at every level possible, the best way possible, with and without technology. They were only interested in technology that would be long lasting and would facilitate better learning, not just fancy up presentations. And that just as a sidenote.
In our last meeting during the trip we met with several education professors from a very prominant school along with a group of architects. While the education professors rallied for technology and a classroom where the teacher stood in the background while students "directed themselves" and became "free agent learners," the meeting ended with Jenn and I pretty much pleading the case for the students who need us so much as a guide, mentor, coach, and educator. It is our goal to create free agent learners, yes, but the students we teach are not college students yet. They are 9th graders. They are 14 year olds who don't know how to direct themselves. Teachers, we argued and were hardily backed up by our leaders from our school district, will not go out of style. Students need leaders. Those leaders need the tools and the space necessary to lead well. It seemed to them that this was revoluntionary. Crazy, I know.
Some good things did eventually come out of these discussions. We came up with a great idea for classroom design and are thinking of actually trying it out at our school next year as an experiment before we just throw in all the bricks and mortar and build the thing for everyone. This idea, again, is so wise. We aren't going all in with blinders on.
I feel so honored to get to teach in a division that not only respects the voice the teachers, the ones on the front lines, but values them enough to include them in their plans and decision making. We are blessed to have such wise leadership who are not swayed by the latest trends but wisely sift information and measure it to what is absolutely the best thing for our students. Not only that, but they do what they say they are going to do. We saw, we brainstormed, and on the way home, we said, let's give it a try!
This is the kind of thing that makes going to work everyday such a blessing and great part of my life. To work for people who truly support you and care about what you do, I realize, is a rare thing in our world today. I feel honored and excited to get to be a part of something so great!