Inspiring Little Johnny
A few months back I started a discussion within the National College for School Leadership website asking what Sacred Idols people were prepared to change at schools. I started with:
- How about if we had an 11.30 start for teenagers?
- Or a 10pm finish time for high achievers?
- What if we abolished homework?
- Wrote weekly reports to parents or, alternatively, abandoned reports altogether?
- How about if we just went super-deep on a few examined subjects and then teach everything else as non-examined subjects?
All of these things are common in the private sector, but not in state schools and they would represent a pretty radical departure in the public sector.
The conversation that followed was wide ranging and absorbing but eventually it all boiled down to one point.
What are the values that we, as educators hold dear, and what are we prepared to do to deliver on them?
Then I came across Think Global School (http://thinkglobalschool NULL.org/) and have found some of their work pretty inspirational. These are some of the reasons why.
If you Google TGS, the first thing you see is their tag line in the search engine which says:
Don’t teach me what to think, teach me how to think.
That’s a good start in my book. It’s a tenet I hold to in my own IT classes: less button clicking on the screen, more button pressing in the mind. However, it’s no more than we might expect from all forward thinking schools.
Pressing onward, you discover that they move city and country every term. I’ll repeat that again. The whole school moves. To a new country every 90 days. Students, teachers, Head Teacher, the lot. OK, you think. Now that’s different. Why do they do that? What’s the point? This is the point where scepticism seems to creep in when I tell people about this school!
Next up, every student and teacher gets an iPad, Macbook and iPhone. Which is nice. But isn’t that like any school that teaches IT but with fancier bits of kit?
So all of this is interesting and different but ultimately I still found I needed to ask my two default questions when faced with something new in education:
‘What about little Johnny? How will this make a long term difference to him?’
So, a little more digging is required. Why were TGS doing this? What are the benefits? What are the results? How does Little Johnny feel about this? So, here is inspirational point number one about TGS.
They are communicators
You have the thinkspot (http://spot NULL.thinkglobalschool NULL.com/), the twitter (https://twitter NULL.com/#!/TGSTHINKGlobal)feed, the blog (http://thinkglobalschool NULL.org/blog/), the facebook (http://www NULL.facebook NULL.com/THINKGlobalSchool), the photo gallery (http://spot NULL.thinkglobalschool NULL.com/pg/photos/world), the youtube (http://www NULL.youtube NULL.com/user/ThinkGlobalSchool) and probably a bunch more I haven’t found yet. And their Little Johnny’s are talking about what they are up to. And singing and playing and learning. There’s plenty of schools out there that have these social network tools but I have never come across one where, when I watched and read the posts, I felt I was watching a family at play. Each and every picture and message shows a group of people who respect and like each other and who feel a commitment to change the way that education is perceived. And that brings me to inspirational point number two.
They learn together
We have all heard the blah blah about teachers as facilitators and guides. But honestly, how often do we really see it? You see it in many teachers for patches of time and then along comes a new league table and people start drilling for the test. It’s not the fault of the teacher! They have to deliver the results or their job (or a colleague’s) will go. So we end up back at square one with Sir at the front and Little Johnny sat at his desk, fidgety and bored. How do you solve this one?
Well, maybe you need to throw out the desk and go and do some research together on the Great Barrier Reef (http://www NULL.youtube NULL.com/watch?v=HNvzTfO9hAc&feature=player_embedded) for a time? Not busy-work research but real research which contributes to the census of species on the reef. So that’s inspirational point number three.
They do work that matters
And this is where I really start to get fired up and excited.
In the UK in particular, there has been a great deal of attention paid to Vocational Education (http://wordnetweb NULL.princeton NULL.edu/perl/webwn?s=vocational%20education). This has often been interpreted as ‘work related contexts’ – dull and patronising in many cases. In the best colleges, vocational education involves genuine work which the students enjoy and value. However, it is still commonly seen, at least in the UK as a poor-relation to ‘academic’ education (c.f. the great education debate in the UK (http://www NULL.14to19 NULL.co NULL.uk/2011/03/michael-gove-accused-of-trying-to-bring-back-grammar-schools-by-back-door/)). Without wanting to stir this hornets’ nest too vigorously, I ask myself two further questions:
- Why should students do work scenarios when they could do work? and,
- Why can’t ‘academic’ kids do work in their chosen fields while still at school?
Now, I know that the way that TGS works is not possible in all schools. It takes money, time and hyper-commitment. But surely we can do better than we are now?
(http://www NULL.fotopedia NULL.com/items/flickr-2049233526)
What if we strip away all our pre-conceived notions of what is possible and say to Little Johnny, “Hey kid, what’s the coolest thing you could possibly imagine doing? How much do you want to do it? And how do you think we might do it together?”
I know that TGS are small, independent, well funded (I imagine!) and very new, but they are still doing things which we can all do. The communicating, the networking, the real work, the learning together. So this for me is inspirational point number four.
They do not believe in barriers.
And actually, I suspect that’s one of the big reasons for them travelling and living in a different country every term. If you jump over the barriers on a regular basis then you forget they are there in the end. You see the wide open country on the other side rather than the great wall in front of you.
And that’s something we can strive for in any school.
(http://twitter NULL.com/home/?status=Inspiring+Little+Johnny+http%3A%2F%2Fis NULL.gd%2Fyr2XJB)