Although I often speak about the things that we need to do to develop and further the way we teach and learn in schools, I would still consider myself a little “old school”. Brought up by very traditional parents and being a part of a community that I loved, there are things that I believe should never change in the school environment and will be vital to educational institutions in the future, although they are rooted in the past.
1. The Focus on Relationships
My best teachers during my time in school, are people that I still hold dear to my heart to this very day. Was it because they inspired me by a test that I had to write in the classroom? Never. What I appreciated was how they made me feel valued as a person, and not simply a student.
I had a science teacher when I was young, and since I struggled with the subject, I was quite a handful in the class. The next year when we had a different teacher lead the course, the connection that I had with the teacher was different and I put much more effort into the course and my work. I still never did truly well in the subject, but I cared a lot more, because I was cared for as a person.
As the old adage goes, students will never care to know, until they know you care.
In 100, 200, 300 years, relationships will always be the foundation of a good school. Without that focus, schools would surely become irrelevant.
2. Opportunities Outside of the Classroom
As schools continue to cut budgets, often programming outside of the classrooms tend to be one of the first things to go (unfortunately, mostly in the fine arts). This is not a good thing for our students.
In my own experience, the opportunity to play sports in school led me to develop leadership skills, as well as understanding the importance of being on a team and working together. The opportunity to take part in the drama program, gave me the confidence to speak in front of others. Both of these programs have had more impact in what I do today than anything else than I have ever done in school.
It is great to see districts like Chris Kennedy’s in West Vancouver not only promote these opportunities, but give kids different opportunities that are new to school. If schools are to develop well rounded individuals, there is a huge importance in offering different programs to our students outside of the classroom.
(By the way…many teachers around the world provide these opportunities on a volunteer basis!)
3. Learning in a Respectful Environment
I have to admit that I have walked into schools and have cringed at some of the words that I have read on clothing. Surprisingly, it was not only by students but sometimes even staff. It is important that as an educator or student you feel comfortable, not only physically but mentally as well. I believe in the importance of relationships (as outlined in this post), but also of being able to work in an environment where people’s differences are respected and free from derogatory remarks.
Schools should be a “safe” place, and safety also deals with the notion of being comfortable to share ideas and be respected by one another, no matter who you are.
The idea that we need to continuously prepare kids for their future is something that always sits in the back of my mind. Pedagogy often needs to change as we continue to see different ways of learning and understand how the brain works. That being said, there are some fundamentals they should never go away and will make schools a place that students want to be.
Some ideas will never get old.