Happy New School Year!

Summer has unofficially come to an end, and the kiddos are back to school … and I’m extending my summer sabbatical so I can finish a lingering project.  I do not yet know how this is going to affect The Arts Room; I guess we’ll all see as time goes by.  For today, though, I want to share with you a timely essay written by teacher in North Carolina-

… “And at the classroom level, that means no one ever dares to imagine. Phrases like “what would happen if” and “why should we believe in” that play a regular role in the language of innovators and entrepreneurs are replaced with phrases like “do you know how to” and “what do you remember about” which do nothing more than emphasize the skills required to find the right answers to someone else’s questions.”

-excerpted from “Are We Asking the Right Questions?” by Bill Ferriter

The current preoccupation with standardized testing has spurred an obsessive-compulsive school culture to take root in districts throughout the nation, and here at home.  Speaking as a parent with children in the system, it is not difficult to pinpoint the things our schools are doing to boost standardized test scores; it is much harder to discover what our schools are doing to teach our children to think creatively, learn from their mistakes, and discover the power of lifelong learning.  Achieving a high percentage of ‘proficient’ test scores does not necessarily mean that students are engaged in meaningful learning experiences – it simply means that more students are getting good at taking the tests.  I agree with Sir Ken Robinson, who says our schools must be transformed, not merely reformed, and I’ve written before about the ways I’d like to see our schools transformed.  Our district, like many others, has become obsessed with “the Data”.  We are at the beginning of a new school year, and before we completely lose sight of the forest while we tally the trees, we need to stop and think about what Bill Ferriter is writing about – in our zeal to enact school reforms to improve education, are we even asking the right questions?

2 thoughts on “Happy New School Year!”

  1. Glad to hear your “voice” again Kristen! Don’t stop asking the questions. Somehow in all this muck, I still harbor the hope that the kids will be okay…IF we keep advocating and asking the questions, as well as challenging “the system”. Start with your school Open Houses…tonight there is one at Kickemuit. Take a look around each classroom, engage teachers in your concerns about creativity, ask what their teaching practices and protocols include to get kids analyzing, thinking outside the box,crossing content areas and collaborating with each other and the outside world. I hope you will be surprised at some of their answers. Don’t ever settle for someone throwing their hands up in the air! Challenge them to stretch!

    From whence does my optimism spring? I spent a delightful weekend at the Rhythm and Roots Music Festival with all of my adult children, their spouses and my five grandchildren (yes…even the 11 week old from D.C.) In addition, there were several of my siblings and friends of the family. In all…there were 14 teachers (yeah…I hang with hope!) and they are doing more than “hangin’ in there” and following the rules. Of course there is much frustration, but they are still the creative folks I have known for years…it’s just that they empower THEMSELVES with the challenge of making their classrooms a place to be creative and analytical. They carry on with the administration’s expectations, get the data collected, and THEN spend their evenings updating their creative and educational websites, writing grants, upgrading lessons and project ideas and participating in the idea sharing that marks all good teachers.

    Don’t despair…three of them teach in our District (one in Science!) and they in turn make their mark on others.
    Thanks for remaining vigilant and forward thinking AND for the exchange of ideas you promote at this site….don’t lose heart…human capacity is remarkable!
    All my best! Denise Arsenault

    1. Wow, Denise, thank you for sharing your uplifting thoughts! And thanks for ‘welcoming me back’ after my summer vacation 🙂 I’m happy for you that you had the chance to gather and recharge with your loved ones at such a cool event this summer! You offer good advice, I will definitely keep your words in mind when I go to the KMS Open House this evening.

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