February 27, 2012

Looking Forward to #NAISAC12

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As I prepare to head west for the National Association of Independent Schools Annual Conference in Seattle, I am struck by the appropriateness and importance of Seth Godin's blog post this morning:  Stop Stealing Dreams.  You can download Godin's 98 page manifesto from that site. I look forward to reading all 30,000 words on the long flight from Memphis to Seattle.

What is school for?  Seth Godin says he gets asked this question more than any other.  As the world has changed, how must school change so that we are preparing our students for the world they live in now and will live in as adults?  To answer the questions about shifting schools, however, we must back up and address Seth's question of what is school for? It used to be that school were knowledge factories, literally knowledge assembly lines were we sent age-grouped batched of children through to accumulate knowledge.  Now that knowledge is an abundant resources, what are schools for?

Somewhere along the way, many of our schools became hyper-focused on college prep.  We staked our worth and value based to the colleges our graduates were accepted to? Really? is this what schools are for? To get kids into exclusive and statistically competitive colleges?  Is that how we are preparing our students to be the leaders and thinkers of the next generation? We must really trust the outcomes and influence of those four years in college.

I am expecting NAIS to be a great forum to take on and discuss Seth's Godin's question of what is school for?  I believe school is for these things and knowing this we can design from there.

School is for teaching students:

to think
to question
to reflect
to research
to discern
to collaborate
to cooperate
to fail and adjust
to persist
to learn
to know themselves
to dream
to be happy
to act

I believe these are the skills that make one capable of doing anything.  My beliefs are influenced by the work of Arthur Costa and Bena Killick.  You can delve further into their 16 Habits of Mind here at The Institute for Habits of Mind. Click on the Habits of Mind visual to download the .pdf of all 16 habits of mind.

To me, it is simple. If we create learning environments that help children develop and practice using all of these things like thinking, questioning, and persisting, etc.. as refined expertises and habits, what else do they need for successful, productive, happy lives? What else did we need?

What I hope to hear at NAIS that more schools are rethinking the factory model and envisioning the school experience as an enriched community that supported children in becoming the future.

Follow me Jamie Baker   @jamiereverb

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What do you think? How do you interpret this idea in your environment?