OK, it’s time to imagine. I mean pure imagining. Whenever I conduct an imagining exercise for my team, I ask them to forget about time, forget about money, and just to forget about even human or scientific limits… just imagine. Throw all obstacles and caveats out the door.
So the exercise I will enact here is this: wipe the slate clean and imagine the absolutely best possible K-12 school for today’s and tomorrow’s world…and while you’re reading about this, I want you to see a few samples of my school’s student art exhibition this month, with over a thousand pieces of student art up and showcased throughout my school, just to add a tone of creativity to this blog.
Here’s my dream school—let’s just call it…
The School of Imagination and Relevance
There shall be two parts to the school day—the morning and the afternoon, and they will look radically different. School would run almost year-round—a standard, shorter break during late December and two-week break in the summer.
Morning session will be called Foundational Learning and the afternoon session will be called Humanism.
Here’s how it breaks down:
(morning) Foundational Learning:
Writing and Reading: Writing and reading would be the initial portion of everyone’s morning, and it would cover a full K-12 curriculum of literature (all genres), journalism, primary and secondary history, philosophy, and foundational texts (e.g., the Bible). About 90 minutes K thru 8; longer in HS.
Brain and Body Exercises—This would be the break/recess/PE period, with a mix of different body and brain activities throughout the week. Health, mindfulness, team building, and exercise. About 30–45 minutes K thru 8; shorter in HS.
Math and Science: This would take up the latter half of the morning—yes, you can do full justice to this curriculum within this time frame. About 90 minutes K thru 8; longer in HS.
Lunch (locally grown, a la Alice Waters…)
This Humanism portion of the day would look radically different from the morning, and the scheduling of these topics and experiences would be completely different from the morning session, with loads of off campus, multi-age groupings, and project/experiential learning going on. Schedule-wise, the ten strands below could be depicted in various segment lengths across a full year calendar with different colored horizontal ribbons, some representing a few weeks, others reappearing in shorter lengths, and others stretching over several months throughout the eleven months of school—these are my brainstorm topics under afternoon Humanism:
- Fundamentals of Design and Engineering
- Contemporary Research and Exploration
- Greatest Stories and People of History
- Environmentalism, Economics and Earth Sustainability
- Life and Motion Studies
- Second, Third, and Additional Languages
- Media, Coding, and Electronics
- Puzzles and Problems
- Collaboration, Communication, and Presentation
- Cultural and Artistic Field Studies
Of course there are a lot of questions that any school’s revamp will generate. Can you imagine pulling together an all-faculty meeting and posting those Humanism bullets on the smartboard and telling them all, “Here it is—Get ready for a new school, beginning next year!” They would be dumbfounded. Certainly the seasoned teachers and administrators would be far more skeptical of what is outlined above than board members, parents, and potential funders, and let’s add the most important constituency–the students themselves.
What I like about this exercise of imagining a dream school is that it evokes the metaphor I like to use that best describes the quality school—the metaphor of the mirror versus the window. Schools that look into the mirror are schools that are preservationist in their culture. They are the self-satisfied schools that are typically complacent and reluctant to move forward. Complacency is a school’s biggest curse. However, schools that look out the window are always looking for something better; these are the healthy schools that are venturesome and not risk-averse. The “window” school is the one that is moving forward all the time; these schools will almost always have the happier employees and the happier families.
Now it’s your turn to imagine the ideal school—I invite you to brainstorm with me, so don’t be afraid to add your comments below.
Or, just in case you have deep pockets and love my concepts outlined here, I’m happy to invest about $35 million of yours into creating this very school, and I’ll even put your name on it!