One thing that I always dreaded, as I enjoyed my summer vacations as a child, was the knowledge that, come September, I would have to write an essay about it. The more cool stuff I did the more I would have to write, so I kept my summer fun to a minimum, usually 50 words or less.
Wouldn’t it be interesting to ask teachers to write about their summer vacations? As a school principal, I would always begin by back-to-school teacher meetings with exactly that question: What did you do on your summer vacation? I could easily divide the responses into two categories.
“Love: A temporary insanity curable by marriage. Such wisdom of the ages, penned by American wit Ambrose Bierce, can be easily adapted to learning as well. We might say, “Learning is a love affair of the intellect, significantly diminished only by constant exposure to school.”
As the summer months roll in, there is a palatable sense of excitement in the air. Students count the minutes until that final bell rings; quite different from teachers and administrators who count the seconds. I once heard someone say that schools are the only environment in which everyone in attendance would rather be somewhere else; OK, schools and graveyards. Of course there are notable exceptions, but the rule holds fast to such an extent that it behooves us to question if it really has to be this way.
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“Innovation never comes from the established institutions.” This statement, coming from Eric Schmidt, who served as the chief executive of Google from 2001 until 2011, makes us sit up and take notice. While Google has certainly impacted the way we interact with the world and with each other, we wonder who will make that impact on the way we teach and the way we learn?
With a focus on the content of their individual mission statements (or charters), charter schools try to become that innovative force acting just outside of ‘established’ educational institutions. The popularity of such schools speaks volumes of the need for such innovation and the belief of many parents that if change is going to happen, it is most likely going to happen outside the public school system. Most, it seems, agree with Mr. Schmidt.