Don’t control them. Don’t protect them too much, and they need to tumble sometimes. They need to get some injury. And that makes them learn how to live in this world.
I love my school for so many reasons. Just this morning, I received an email that provided me with yet another reason. The email was sent to the entire Upper School student body, and I was copied. It was an email rich in design thinking. It was an email full of trust that honors the wisdom of the “student.” It was an email full of promise for the depths of design – at the intersection of creativity and functionality.
Design thinking is people-centered problem solving. It is fundamentally concerned with and connected to the users of the things being designed. It is full of empathy and creative, critical thinking applied to real-world issues and challenges.
The most ambitious school leaders are serious about the design of “school.” How could one not be in our current era – to continuously think, design, and act for the best learning experiences for our learners. To give anything less than such critical attention would be unthinkable. Even if one determined to leave school “as is,” it would be superb if such decision making stemmed from thoughtful research and design, rather than status quo or de facto operations.
So, here’s the email. What a glorious invitation. How grateful I am that such is commonplace where I work and learn!
I hope you all had a great weekend.
If you would like to help us design school for the “Experiment” and “Produce” phases of the projects, we need your ideas and help.
I invite you to join me either for lunch Wednesday or for breakfast Friday (on me) to discuss how we might best design the school day to position you for success.
Click here to sign up. [active link in original email]
There are only 50 available slots this week, and there will [be] more opportunities in the near future.
Enjoy your day,
Tyler S. Thigpen
Head of Upper School
Mount Vernon Presbyterian School
This morning, I realized that I aspire to be a choreographer. While watching “Wayne McGregor: A choreographer’s creative process in real time,” I was moved by the emotion of possibility. Not only was I moved by the literal art and science of McGregor’s work as a master choreographer of physical dance, but I was also moved by the metaphorical force of McGregor’s message – for the translation that this work can be for teaching, school leadership, and education.
As McGregor recounted:
So this is not the type of choreography where I already have in mind what I’m going to make, where I’ve fixed the routine in my head and I’m just going to teach it to them, and these so-called empty vessels are just going to learn it. That’s not the methodology at all that we work with. But what’s important about it is how it is that they’re grasping information, how they’re taking information, how they’re using it, and how they’re thinking with it.
I’m going to start really, really simply. Usually, dance has a stimulus or stimuli, and I thought I’d take something simple, TED logo, we can all see it, it’s quite easy to work with, and I’m going to do something very simply, where you take one idea from a body, and it happens to be my body, and translate that into somebody else’s body, so it’s a direct transfer, transformation of energy.
Likewise, our student-learners are not empty vessels to be filled. They are creative, thinking, energetic forces who can express their constructing understanding of the world…with a bit of support and guidance from a choreographer. [As I learned from Farnam Street’s “What’s the best way to begin to learn a new skill?,”this transfer could also be called engraving.] Student-learners can do so much more than receive, memorize, and recall for testing. They can connect, empathize, and interpret. What could be used as the stimuli? How about world issues? How about big ideas and grand challenges that we face in our schools, in our communities, in our cities, in our nations, and in our world?
School leaders could choreograph the orchestrated dance of a coordinated, collaborative faculty…working in harmonious partnership with business, government, and non-profits. We could dance together with a bit of guidance and support from our school choreographers (school in the BROAD sense).
Later in the talk, McGregor explained:
So they’re solving this problem for me, having a little — They’re constructing that phrase.They have something and they’re going to hold on to it, yeah? One way of making. That’s going to be my beginning in this world premiere.
Okay. From there I’m going to do a very different thing. So basically I’m going to make a duet. I want you to think about them as architectural objects, so what they are, are just pure lines. They’re no longer people, just pure lines, and I’m going to work with them almost as objects to think with, yeah? So what I’m thinking about is taking a few physical extensions from the body as I move, and I move them, and I do that by suggesting things to them: If, then; if, then. Okay, so here we go.
“So, they’re solving this problem for me.” Student-learners, in partnership with their
teachers choreographers and collaborators from the “real-world,” could construct phrases to test and trial against a dialogue with the big ideas and grand challenges we face. Our learning architects could assist in designing “structures” that provide for such dancing with ideas and interdisciplinary problem solving. For the accompaniment – the assessment, the communications, the engineering – would have to be re-imagined to facilitate well-architected dancing and duet-ing.
And, nearer the conclusion and the unveiling of the completed dance premier, McGregor articulated:
That was the second way of working.The first one, body-to-body transfer, yeah,with an outside mental architecture that I work withthat they hold memory with for me.The second one, which is using them as objects to thinkwith their architectural objects, I do a series ofprovocations, I say, “If this happens, then that.If this, if that happens — ” I’ve got lots of methods like that,but it’s very, very quick, and this is a third method.They’re starting it already, and this is a task-based method,where they have the autonomy to makeall of the decisions for themselves.
Do I even need to translate this one? “This is a task-based method, where they have the autonomy to make all of the decisions for themselves.” Isn’t this what we all want for our student-learners? Don’t we want to choreograph in such a way that they are not vessels to be filled but the paradoxical wonders of simultaneously independent and interdependent thinkers and doers? That they have autonomy to go and make the dances themselves that will solve our school, community, city, nation, and world issues?
Yes, I aspire to be a choreographer. A choreographer of School 3.0. And I’m looking for dancers.
February 22, 2011 | 11:11 AM | By Tina Barseghian, from KQED & NPR Mind/Shift: How we will learn.
All of these innovative models are showing us that incredible results, and experiences are possible when we design the school day with the needs of the student in mind. The historic “one-size-fits-all” model of set periods of time with groups of somewhere between 20-30 kids lined up in rows and one teacher in the front of the room orchestrating the conversation…. well, Sage on Stage, Chalk and Talk, and Spray and Pray might just have met their match.
The school day of the future will be unpredictable, inconsistent, and designed to be wildly relevant for the learner, their engagement, and their development. – By Sandy Speicher
[Thanks to @centerteach for sending me the link to this article.]
Why don’t we devote more time and attention in school to studying schools? What if there were a course akin to “Past, Present, and Future of USA Schooling?” Could mixed-aged classrooms take on various design challenges for improving schools? Could such design challenges lead to learners studying the present state of schools in the U.S.? Could such a course create a “need to know” about the history of schooling in the U.S.? Could such a course integrate lessons that would typically be relegated and segregated to English, math, language, science, and history?
What might happen to the rate and effectiveness of school change-and-growth if we approached the issue in such a way?
Like ripples in a pond, students could better understand the WHYS and HOWS and WHATS of one’s own school. How does a school decide on curriculum? How does a school educate its own faculty? How does a school business office work? What are the issues that my school faces in terms of sustainability and campus planning?
Then, the next ripple in the pond may be to understand the school landscape in one’s own city and/or state. Schools from various states could collaborate on building a collective understanding of schooling in the U.S. How did charters develop? Why has homeschooling grown so much in the last decade? Imagine the collective database, resources, and growing understanding. Imagine guiding students to employing such scientific methods to the understanding of one’s own school, as well as to schools in more general terms.
From such a foundation, what might the next generation of school leaders achieve?!