This I Believe…

…our public school system is fantastic AND it is critical that it undergo a complete and comprehensive transformation.

…the transformation of public education should empower students to be responsible for their own learning and much more active and engaged participants in the process. We will need time for this transition because students have been so disempowered that their natural curiosity and love of learning has been lost. They are like wild animals that have been domesticated. Releasing them back to the wild with no transition would be cruel. (See “The Wolves of Learning”; “Trust Our Children”)

…the transformation should further result in the elimination of the “hidden curriculum” that we teach our children: They are learning that the voice of authority is to be trusted and valued more than independent judgment. The hierarchical nature of school puts knowledge in the teacher’s domain. Their job is to “play school”, accept the status quo; even if it isn’t relevant, or makes no sense to them. “Command and Control” schooling is a leftover from the assembly line manufacturing era. It does not represent the way business nor the world operates today…“The World Is Flat”; Thomas Friedman (See “Education’s Hidden Messages”)

…the transformation should result in students recognizing their unique gifts and having the courage to bring these gifts into their learning and their lives. Teachers can play a “life-changing” role in helping students discover their gifts and building their confidence in them. (See “Seeing What Is There” )

…the transformation should embrace an expanded definition of learning and knowledge. Learning needs to be redefined from its present focus on how much information one can accumulate and recall; to being able to DO something new with the information. Being able to do new things, take new actions that we were not able to take before; is at the core of what learning is about. (See “The Learning Dojo“)

…we are the living curriculum. We teach who we are. (See “You Are The Living Curriculum”and “The Power of the Spider”)
…transforming our schools will take effective and committed leadership at every level and from every individual. Transformation always begins with ME! Whether I am a student, teacher, principal, superintendent or director of technology; it is up to me to change. Teachers wait for the principal to make the changes, the principal waits for the superintendent, the superintendent waits for the state education department, and the state ed department waits for the feds. No one wants to commit to going first. Everyone sees the problem somewhere else. If only the (teachers, administration, parents, community, state ed, or feds) “Got it!” things would surely change. (See: “Accountability 1″; “A Simple Practice to Change Education and the World”)

…in order to develop effective and committed leaders at all levels we will need to abandon our present method of training and supporting leaders. Our present methods utilize all the elements of teaching that we are trying to change: i.e. The leadership teacher knows everything and our job as students of leadership is to collect as much information from the teacher as possible. We cannot become effective leaders by reading books about leadership, listening to lectures, blogging about it, nor collecting tips and techniques. We can be very smart, have lots of leadership insights, and be able to talk about it like an expert; but that does not mean that we have become effective leaders. We need leadership development programs that emphasize “leadership practices and leadership presence” and support educators as they engage in the personal challenges they will face as they engage in this process. (See “Leadership Ethos”A New Definition of Leadership === this is a Word.doc attachment)

…although technology can serve a role in this transformation; it is secondary. (See “The Starting Point” ; “Logic Does Not Apply”)

…this transformation is possible and each of us must make a commitment to be active in bringing it about. If we have beliefs that are not consistent with this commitment we must re-examine them. (See “When You Believe It, You Will See It” )

…there are teachers in classrooms every day that are changing the world. We must honor their work. Gratitude and appreciation are at the core of transformed schools. (See: “A Teacher’s Story – Conclusion”)

I believe these things…



14 thoughts on “This I Believe…

  1. I really enjoyed reading about this article. Some of the points that you have are really fascinating. This article really made me think, especially when you said things such as “schooling is a leftover from the assembly line manufacturing era”…I have never thought about that before. I like how you focus on helping children realize their special talent, as I wish former teachers of mine would have helped me. I really think you are on to something if only your plans could/would work. I agree with Tom when he says it’s a great contribution to the world, I think it really could be.

  2. Pete,
    Thanks for gathering all these great resources we can refer to. I was talking to my dresser today about educational reform, she does not have any children so it was interesting to hear her take on the state of education. She did not realize that education is paid for by a tax system designed to keep good school in wealthy communities and poor school in poor communities. Or, like Jenna, that schools are designed on the factory model. Raw product in finished product out.
    I have been having a dialog with the students in my classes about the absurdity of the grading system. It is a feel good way for teachers and parents to believe that something is happening to the children and learning is taking place. It is assumed that the smartest most deserving children get good marks and the slowest undersving get poor marks. Maybe because I am special ed teacher I see how students struggle to reach the lowest rung on the achievement ladder and how are punished for it.
    Thanks for letting me rant.

  3. Pete,
    Nice manifesto! You will love Herb Kohl’s new book, Painting Chinese.

    It’s also a roadblock that the students who have mastered this “hidden curriculum” are the “good students” and the ones with the most invested in it not changing. They learned the rules and play by them, when teachers try to mess with that by introducing projects or alternative assessments, they don’t like it.

    But the paradox, as you state, is that this is both the best system, and it must change.

    Keep the faith!

  4. Jim;
    I’ve always felt that if Special Ed teachers ran our schools we would be halfway home. I have great respect for you and the others who do what you do. You take kids from where they are and move them as far as they can go. Each child is “special” and unique.
    In appreciation

  5. Sylvia,
    Painting Chinese, I’ll find it.
    When I was a teacher, many years ago, I remember I drove a couple of the most successful and “domesticated” students crazy because I wouldn’t tell them how many words were supposed to be in the essay they were assigned.

  6. Pete, I understand what you are saying when you say that technology is secondary. Although technology is very helpful in the the transformation of our schools and it will need to be integrated into our schools more and more, I think that issues like teacher leadership roles are a more important issue. I have observed many teachers in my education past (and future career) that just don’t step up and become leaders for their students. Teachers are in the position to positively influence so many, and it seems like so few actually seize that opportunity.

    “Teachers wait for the principal to make the changes, the principal waits for the superintendent, the superintendent waits for the state education department, and the state ed department waits for the feds. No one wants to commit to going first.” I think this is something key to understand when trying to correct a lack of leadership. Without kicks-tarting an issue yourself, as a student or a teacher, you may often find the solution to a very important issue, getting lost amid the potential political mess that education often entails. Thanks for the blog.


  7. I enjoyed the site You are the living curriculum. Our students will find more in a lesson when it is relayed through emotion and excitiment. Our students deserve best.

  8. Your article is very interesting and brings up a lot of good points. I believe to make our children into leaders technology in the classroom is a must. Using educational technology allows our students to become more independent on themselves and not their teachers. It also allows students to learn to collaborate with one another which leads to great leaders in our society. I do agree that teachers and administrators need to push and make the first step. Great Article!

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