Sunday, December 22, 2013

Photos from a visit to the Met in Providence, R.I. with suggestions about what to look for when you make time to visit the school (Big Picture Learning)

The following photos were taken  on December 16.  this is a long post and I hope that there is some value to putting thiese items in a long presentation.  I aim to prepare visitors for finding these elements.

There is an element of CURATING to the process of preparing a visitor to see the Met.  The first preparation should be reading the first chapter of the Big Picture, which is available free on the ASCD website (the publisher).  To facilitate your experience of the Met, I have posted some elements from the First chapter (which is about 30 pages long), so that with some pacing you can get through the book and prepare for your visit.

You can also view a video of a visit made in 2005.

Why not write to some of the current students? 
Principal Jodie Woodruff 
Introduce yourself, describe your interests, and ask for their feedback about your assumptions and questions about the school.

You don't have to read the entire book to get the philosophy and key points of the Big Picture philosophy.   This book can change a teacher's perspective by giving stories and a vocabulary for transforming the classroom experience.   I hope that some of the teachers who plan to visit The Met will take time to benefit from Dennis Littky's words.

Here are the extracts and excerpts that I recommend:

When I watch kids walk into the building on their first day of school, I think about what I want them to be like when they walk out on their last day. I also think about what I want them to be like on the day I bump into them in the supermarket 10 or 20 years later. Over the course of three decades watching kids walk into my schools, I have decided that I want them to
  • be lifelong learners
  • be passionate
  • be ready to take risks
  • be able to problem-solve and think critically
  • be able to look at things differently
  • be able to work independently and with others
  • be creative
  • care and want to give back to their community
  • persevere
  • have integrity and self-respect
  • have moral courage
  • be able to use the world around them well
  • speak well, write well, read well, and work well with numbers
  • truly enjoy their life and their work.
To me, these are the real goals of education.
I want students to learn to use the resources around them. I want them to read something or see something they are interested in and follow up on it. I want them to have an idea and then get on the phone and call people they can talk to about it, or pick up a book and read more about it, or sit down and write about it. When I imagine one of my students as an adult, I imagine a person who is a thinker and a doer, and who follows his or her passions. I see an adult who is strong enough to stand up and speak for what he or she wants and believes, and who cares about himself or herself and the world. Someone who understands himself or herself and understands learning. Creativity, passion, courage, and perseverance are the personal qualities I want to see in my graduates. I want them to come upon things they've seen every day and look at them in a whole new way. I want them to feel good about themselves and be good, honest people in the way they live their lives. And, catchphrase or not, I want my students to score high on the “tests of emotional IQ” that life will inevitably throw at them over and over again.1 
Finally, I want my students to get along with and respect others. Someone once asked me, “What is the most important thing a school does?” I replied that everything I believe about the real goals of education is not possible if the kids in the school do not care about and cannot get along with each other or with the people they meet outside of school. I believe that this is at the heart of what we mean when we talk about celebrating and respecting diversity, and it is at the heart of what makes a school and a society work.
When a kid leaves my school, I want her to have the basic life skills that will help her get along in the adult world—like knowing how to act in a meeting or how to keep her life and work organized. Basic stuff that too many schools forget about in their rush to cram in three sciences, three social studies, four maths, and so on. But I also want her to be the kind of person who will keep building on what she got in my school, who will keep developing skills, keep learning, keep growing. Each of us, if we live to be just 70 years old, spends only 9 percent of our lives in school. Considering that the other 91 percent is spent “out there,” thenthe only really substantial thing education can do is help us to become continuous, lifelong learners.Learners who learn without textbooks and tests, without certified teachers and standardized curricula. Learners who love to learn. To me, this is the ultimate goal of education. W. B. Yeats said it this way: “Education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire.

* * *

In 1999, the school board in Howard County, Maryland, removed two criteria from its official policy on determining high school students' grades. You know that neither of them were standardized tests. No, they were, and I quote, “originality” and “initiative.” This school board decided that those two qualities of a student's work were no longer important. They decided this because, they said, it is “impossible” to measure how hard a student tries or if a student's work is original. What they were really saying, and what way too many school boards are now saying, is this: If it can't be measured easily, then we can't care about it, we can't teach it, and we certainly can't determine if a kid has learned it. The solution? Take originality and initiative completely out of your educational goals and just teach to the test. It makes me scream.
Ernest L. Boyer, the renowned education expert and then-president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, once gave a speech entitled “Making the Connections.” In it, he said (beautifully),
Let's get started
I know how idealistic it may sound, but it is my urgent hope that in the century ahead students in the nation's schools will be judged not by their performance on a single test, but by the quality of their lives. It's my hope that students in the classrooms of tomorrow will be encouraged to be creative, not conforming, and learn to cooperate rather than compete.2 
Boyer said this in 1993. He died two years later, after a long battle with cancer. Boyer knew that schools were headed in the wrong direction and he made that clear by saying that his hope was “idealistic.” It is so sad to me that if he were here today, he would not only see how idealistic this hope still is, but how far we have gone since then in the exact opposite direction.
I remember in the 8th grade, my science teacher had us do these posters that he put up all around the school. Though it wasn't exactly a test, it was a major project, and we all knew our grade depended on it. So there these posters were, hung all over the walls, and they were beautiful, and the teacher looked good to his boss and colleagues, and he probably felt pretty good about himself, too. I think this was the first time I realized how much of my

I like the focus on "Where are you headed?"
and the students might see these bulletin boards in the lobby at the front of the school

Remember to sign in...

I like the Gratitude Board

This chair can slide so that a student with bad posture can slide into a more-comfortable position


education was total bull. I knew I hadn't learned anything about what was on those posters, including my own. And the teacher just hung them up. We barely talked about the posters, we made no connection with them to anything else, and he never went any deeper with the learning than that final project. My classmates and I had simply copied pictures and words out of the encyclopedia, and for that we not only passed the test of poster making, but were also assumed to have gained the predetermined “set of knowledge” for that quarter. Never mind that none of us had learned very much about science, let alone about initiative or originality. We did exactly what the “test” required us to do and nothing more—and so did the teacher.
I recommend this Adjustable Chair
Today, tests as meaningless as that test of poster making are determining the goals of education. Tests are dictating what we as a society hold valuable in our young people. Our addiction to testing is blinding us to what we believe in our hearts are the important lessons our children should learn.
If we worked backward, and thought first about the kind of adult we admire, we would not name characteristics that could be measured on a multiple-choice test. No single measurement or tool can get at what's really important in any area of learning. And the current push for one test that every kid has to pass in order to move to the next grade or graduate makes the whole situation even sadder.
What we want to see is the child in pursuit of knowledge, and not knowledge in pursuit of the child.
George Bernard Shaw
This is in the "mud room" or entrance of the
Entrepreneurship Center

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