Step 0: Preparation @GrantLichtman #EdJourney Episode 4, 9.28.12

In “Step 0: Preparation,” the second chapter of Grant Lichtman’s book The Falconer: What We Wished We Had Learned In School, Grant offered a number of thoughts that keep me coming back to this chapter, and they seem to be relevant to this third week of Grant’s three-month, 60-school, cross-country tour exploring innovation in an interesting collection of our nation’s schools.

  • “Before we solve a problem or overcome a challenge or invent an invention or come to a personal point of realization, we have to be prepared to encounter a problem or challenge or a quest worthy of our assault. The excitement of learning, the compelling personal drive to take one more step on the path towards wisdom, comes when we try to solve a problem we want to solve, when we see a challenge and say, yes, I can meet it. Great teachers lead us just far enough down a path so we can see a challenge for ourselves. They provide us with just enough insight so we can work toward a solution that makes us, makes me want to jump up and shout out the solution to the world, makes me want to step up to the next higher level.” (pp. 19-20)
  • “If they don’t care about what I want to teach, I will teach what they care about. (p. 21)
  • “‘Here’s your homework. For next class, each one of you will write down something that you don’t understand, something that interests you that you’d like to know. Anything at all…as long as it’s somehow connected to the physical universe, and you care about the answers.'” (p. 21)
  • “In the end, we’d covered most of the major points of my original syllabus.” (p. 23)
  • “Great teachers create opportunities for students to ask questions that excite them to self-discovery.” (p. 23)
  • The first task of preparation is to create or take advantage of, the opportunity to explore, learn, lead, or challenge.” (p. 24)
  • “Happiness and success depend, in many ways, on one’s ability to calmly overcome challenges, to successfully solve problems, and to creatively take advantage of opportunities.” (p. 26)
  • “Solutions are often found by testing many different assumptions and ideas to see what works, creating options that look at the problem in new ways.” (p. 28)

The schools that Grant is visiting are “testing many different assumptions and ideas to see what works, creating options that look at the problems in new ways.” Those of us immersed in and devoted to educational enhancement, during these times of learning and school transformation, owe a great deal to the schools opening themselves to Grant so that we can see some of what they are testing and creating. And, of course, we owe a great deal to Grant for taking this #EdJourney in order to explore and examine the approaches that schools are taking as they face this educational crossroads…and for sharing his reflections and keeping us all connected so that we can learn with and from each other.

Highlight quotes and links from Grant’s visits this week – Week 3 of #EdJourney:

“But there is another, very critical layer to innovation, and that is what this post is about.  That layer is what I call the time of heavy lifting, of building the solid foundation upon which a relatively higher frequency of change and innovation becomes comfortable and a good overall fit for the organization.”

“Here are my major takeaways from Hawken, and I think they are important for any school, but most importantly for those where leaders are being really cautious about making changes for fear of upsetting faculty or parents.  First, with clarity, inclusion, and adequate preparation, our organizations can withstand a lot more change than we think. As Scott left me with, “if you are going to make some changes, go big”.  Second, taking on an issue like time and taming it to your needs instead of the other way around will change mindsets at your school.  People will get comfortable with change where once they feared it; they will embrace evolution where once they were stuck in the familiar.  These are critical traits for surviving in a changing world.  It takes courage to do these, but examples like Hawken prove what is possible, and the possible is what we should be all about.”

“We walked across the street, left the block walls and tired halls and visited two classes that Eric has arranged with Community College.  One is a beginning robotics class, students bent over benches putting together their first remote-controlled cars, fiddling with pieces and asking questions.  Eric said it is just like turning a switch when the students leave that place they associate with tedious, normal school life and come over here.  The fights and harsh words disappear.  They focus on the teacher. They engage.  They are actively participating in learning, and much of it is because they have inadvertently discarded their image of what school is.”

“As the Center concept grew, Bill feels they recognized deeper layers, that discovery is the true key to learning, and discovery does not happen in a class where the students are always the recipients of knowledge….

Busting the rigid silos of department was not without a bit of pain, but Koyen feels it was a modest level of pain, and well worth it.  It sometimes is messy to know who must be included in what decisions as the interest of the Centers intersect with the interests of the academic departments, but the faculty works it out and have grown stronger in the process. Koyen says “It is pretty obvious that there is conflict between traditional teaching and the way the world works”.

“SLA is a public magnet school and a partnership with The Franklin Institute, a major museum and science center in Philadelphia.  They have a rigorous college prep program, though devoid of AP’s. All of their classes are taught in a project-based environment and as a community they embrace the core values of inquiry, research, collaboration, presentation, and reflection. ”