Changing Schools from the Inside Out

A year ago this month, based on the international popularity of a blog I had written for Huffington Post,  I was invited to speak at two conferences in Italy. And so it was that in October 2015 I travelled to Europe and presented my teaching ideas in Milan,  in Ferrara and in Florence. The above video was filmed in Ferrara and in Florence.

Sharing my ideas in Italy was quite a surreal experience because I had held these ideas for most of the three decades of my teaching career but had always encountered massive resistance to them from colleagues and from superiors whether in South Africa or in Canada.

But something has shifted within the education system and so what was considered too radical years ago is now being welcomed as a great new idea: that classrooms should be spaces that students find socially inviting, emotionally safe, and intellectually stimulating.

This coming summer I’ll be sharing these ‘radical’  ideas during a three-week course I’ll be teaching at the University of the Fraser Valley as part of their Teacher Education Program.  The course, Changing Schools From the Inside Out will explore spaces where change is possible despite restraints within the education system.

A few of the practices I use in my high school classroom will be embedded into the course: journalling, movement, meditation, and laughter.

The three hour class each day will be divided into time to share within the circle, time to listen to a lecture, and time to practice and/or explore new ideas.  Gather, Think and Do, respectively.

I am very excited about this opportunity to teach and to learn with other teachers and am looking forward to showing what I’ve learned through “chart and chance” over my career.  As Ken Robinson has said:

Opportunities for change exist within every school, even where the emphasis on high-stakes testing has become extreme. Schools often do things simply because they’ve always done them. The culture of any given school includes habits and systems that the people in it act out every day. Many of these habits are voluntary rather than mandated – teaching by age groups, for example, or making every period the same length, using bells to signal the beginning and end of periods, having all of the students facing the same direction with the teacher in the front of the room, teaching math only in math class and history in history class, and so on. Many schools, a good number of which are dealing with adverse conditions and were once considered trouble, have used that space to innovate within the system, often with inspiring results. Innovation is possible because of the sort of system that education actually is. ~~~ Ken Robinson in Creative Schools.


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