A Labor of Love

First day back for teachers
First day back for ISP teachers

What a great feeling, getting school ready for the start of the new year at the International School of Prague! The campus is a busy beehive of activity; polishing floors, moving furniture, trimming hedges and unpacking boxes. The new faculty are learning the ropes of their newly adopted school and country, and returning teachers, most of whom have been on vacation either visiting their home countries or enjoying exotic locations, or both are getting back into the swing of things. Around the world, international schools go through a similar ritual, greeting the new school year with excitement and anticipation. Students of all ages will shortly arrive back to the International School of Prague from all four corners of the globe.

1st day at ISP 2011
1st day at ISP 2011

Although it may take many shapes and forms, over the centuries and around the world, a tradition of welcoming students and the new school year is a constant.

First day of school for Indian students
First day of school for Indian students – 2010

Students will once again interact with their peers and with caring professionals. Students will once again move from class to class, from subject to subject, to lunch and recess and after school activities. It is a model of education, almost as old as human history.

Nepalese teacher and schoolchildren in Pokhara - 2011
Nepalese teacher and schoolchildren in Pokhara – 2011

And within this place we call school, we still ask ourselves how to best meet the needs of today’s learner?

Over 100 years ago, the great educational leader, John Dewey said:

Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.

John Dewey - 1902
John Dewey – 1902

By this he meant that a truly effective school, is one that brings life into its essence, so that students are learning through the lives they lead in school.

But should school be different from the past? In what ways should our schools remain the same? These are questions we educators continue to ask ourselves.

Kids today have unprecedented access to knowledge and information and schools and teachers no longer hold a monopoly on either. This compels schools to rethink our habits and ways of functioning. It also presents unprecedented opportunities and challenges that schools must embrace.

How can we meet the needs of 21st Century learners? More than ever, we are in a position through technology and other means to support personalized learning, where the curriculum can be customized for each student.

Grade 2 iPad program
Grade 2 iPad program

There are also aspects of school that should not change. There is no substitute for the human, personal, caring interaction between the teacher and student? This is “learning” that feeds the soul, not to mention the positive impact on academic achievement. We know, in fact, that the single most significant impact on student learning is the rapport and interaction between student and teacher.

Classroom at a secondary school in Pendembu, Sierra Leone
Secondary school classroom in Pendembu, Sierra Leone
German school in 1950s
German school in 1950s
Jewish children with their teacher in Samarkand – early 20th Century

In a world where change is the new normal, schools must evolve and cannot be institutions frozen in time. At the same time, schools will always provide the personal touch, the caring, the wisdom and the guidance all human beings need in order to thrive.

The challenge of making schools relevant to today’s learner can be daunting. But it is the humanity, the spark of learning and life we see in our students every day that makes teaching and learning a labor of love!

*All photos are in the public domain

One comment

  1. Arnie, this is really well-written and so filled with meaning about our work. What inspiration! We are in a ‘communciation’ meeting and trying to figure out the role of blogging in an effort to try to bring the community together. We are taking a look at other schools and their Director Blogs. Do you feel you have an audience for this amazing effort? You are on top of technology options for sure!!!
    Hope you and your family are well! Melissa


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