Sea Change – People Change.

267762663_1b6b6c9716More on the negotiated curriculum. My wife has been appointed to new school this week on the Central Coast, about 70kms north of Sydney, so this holiday we have to find a new house and move in about 5 weeks. Its an opportunity to get Miss 5 to start school with her and also to move Mr 7 to the same school. Aside from the hours and hours of running around to pick up and drop off kids that will come to an end – the principal of the school was really open to the idea of negotiating Mr 5s curriculum and finding ways of developing that with us, him and the teacher. To her, supporting the idea that the ‘extra’ time that he gets is used to do someting authentic within the context of what is happening in the classroom – seemed obvious. Previously it was seen as totally disruptive to the ‘teaching of the class’.

What a difference one person could make. I say could, as it may not play out the way we hope, but at least the door is open. Once again it is really clear that improvement opportunities in education of children simply come from open minded people. There really is no benefit in ‘yeah butting’ ideas, simply because they are different.

In the case of children with special needs, 21st Centruy skills – collaboration, communication and construction of knowledge towards goal-orientated learning to me are far more important than ‘rote’ learning. The are not, as I heard this week from someone, ‘motherly’ statements – but imperatives. Personally I think they are more important than remembering discipline information, and in Mr 7s case unless he aquires them at the same time as ‘content’ – then quite simply he tunes right out.

Mr 3 we noticed this week asks us ‘teach me to …’ when he wants to do something. As a fiesty 3 year old it’s already clear that he is an active learner and wants to be hands on, trying and collaborating. He doesn’t accept (beacuse he’s 3) that he can’t do something unless he tries, and has learned to working with his siblings yeilds benefits – but is not about to accept their version of what he can or cannot do. This of course leads to frustration – especially when dealing with Mr 7 who generally makes instant judgements and is not a trial and error kid. Give Mr 7 Lego and ask him to contruct something. Not in the least interested as he visualises only the ‘end’ product. The fastest way to that is to get an adult to do it.

So in one household there is massive differences in learning, communication, language and collaboration skills. Miss 5 loves to visualise her ideas, Mr 3 likes to ‘build’ things (he wants a bridge for Christmas) and Mr 7 loves technology to contruct – but not kinesthetic construction. There are ‘core’ skills kids need to know – but there is no one ‘rote’ way to learn them. More importantly, having a teacher or school who actually listens to the parents and allows the children to expore authentic learning preferences will, in my view, be a better school.

It’s not the amount of IWBs, the size of the pool, the 1:1 laptops or the prestige name that matters – but the teacher. Mr 7 has survived this year because of the support of 2 people at St.Clair OOSH, before and after school care – who have gone to tremendous efforts to understand him, engage him and support his interests. This is why I think that as ‘people networks’ grow – my kids stand a better chance of at least spending some time in the future with people who have the capacity to interact with them in ways that work (for them).

David Warlick posted about his answers to the ‘yeah buts’ this week and Kevin Jarrett posted about the power of networks. Both of these things give me a lot of hope that teachers begin to wake up to the idea that ‘rote’ learning, based on authoratarian power – is not going to work into the next decade, as effectively as learning how to engage todays kids in todays cultural and social contexts.

Where does it start – with open minded teachers – not ‘tech savvy’ ones. Technology helps grease the wheels -but is neither a cure for engagement – or a disruption to learning methods – and striving to talk about ‘learning’ without using any reference to technology I think brings much greater clarity to the discussions about what 21st Century Learning is. Open minded, authentic, individual and student centered – based on inquiry, but underpinned by ‘core’ explicit learning activities. Not all ‘computer’ based and not one ‘style’ or another – blended learning – because we live blended lives.

I re-read my first post today – and pleased to think that I started with one idea – and that was to try new things. Almost 2 years later, I think I am still doing that, except now I have a much better understanding of how to achieve it and now working with some great people that help me.  The point is, that I decided one day, that change had to start with me, not the system.