No Stranger’s Words

Through the marvels of technology, I am now in the habit of listening to strangers talk about education: how to teach, how to learn, how to teach students how to learn, and so on. That said, I am thinking now about reading the words of someone whom I know and work with.

Listen to this:

Our Elementary School

“In the Elementary School we strive to ensure that each year at AIS is the best year in every child’s life. As educators we make decisions based on the understanding that we are not only guiding children towards learning but building experiences and creating memories that will serve to inform futures not yet imagined. At AIS our goal is for children to love school and for this love to translate into lifelong learning.”

This quote is taken from a recent proposal submitted by our principal, Sacha McVean, to the school’s Executive Board in support of the construction of a full elementary science lab and library extension. (A full introduction to the elementary school can be found here.) In the document, she describes the history of facilities decisions taken over the years which have led to the current project proposal and provides a brief overview of global education trends which speak in favor of this bold step. She draws attention to recent shifts in education practice which require our active response: from knowing to doing, from teacher centered instruction to student directed learning, from one right answer to multiple possibilities and from independent work to teamwork.

She concludes with this:

“While you learn to read in the classroom, you go the the library to instill a love of reading. In this same way, the construction of a new Science lab will instill a love of science in our students and this will help them meet the challenges that tomorrow promises.”

Every day I read the words of so many strangers on all things education. Yet this document, written by my own principal, gave me pause in a new way.  She was talking about education and she was talking about us – what we offer, what we strive for, what we value. And in these words, especially in those opening sentences describing Our Elementary School, I could in fact see myself and my colleagues and all of our students.

That, my friends, is a rare and wonderful gift. In reading the full document which included great visual contrasts illustrating other facility changes which would take place and further reinforce the goals of meeting student needs to an even greater degree, I was surprised by my own sense of pride at being a member of this school, our school. I was struck by the sense that the planning, persistence, and ultimately, the pay-off (the board approved the plan for the science lab construction) is fully in service to current and future students. Maybe that is, in truth, the real miracle – knowing that at the center of the vision, the plan and the decisions – are kids: their needs, aspirations and curiosity.

Alas, this episode captures a slice of the miracle so many of us in education are striving for: visions, plans and decisions which place children and their needs at the center – and then deliver.

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