At the International School of Prague, we believe that a great school is one that is committed to bringing to life, an ambitious and forward thinking mission and vision. In order to continue to remain relevant to twenty-first century learners,
it is crucial that all members of the school community have the opportunity to provide perspective and ideas in furthering the mission.
With the goal of thinking out of the box and generating innovative ideas, ISP teachers have formed themselves into Faculty Focus Groups. These groups are an attempt to create a culture shift and facilitate open-ended conversations about school.
ISP parents too have been involved in this process and have dubbed their group, The Edge in Education. During our first parent meeting this year, we watched the Ken Robinson TED Talk: Bring on the Learning Revolution
In his talk, Robinson raises a number of thought-provoking issues, relevant not only to educators, but to parents. He discusses how schools do not adequately provide students with the opportunities they need to truly find out who they really are or what their natural talents are. He argues that it’s not reform, but a revolution in education that is needed, that schools need to be transformed, not just improved.
Quoting Abraham Lincoln, Robinson discusses the word, dis-enthrall:
We must dis-enthrall ourselves.
Robinson’s point is that we must dissuade ourselves from what we normally take for granted in how traditional schooling has functioned for hundreds of years.
Many of our ideas have been formed, not to meet the circumstances of this century, but to cope with the circumstances of previous centuries. But our minds are still hypnotized by them, and we have to disenthrall ourselves of some of them.
Robinson discusses the linearity of traditional schools as an example of what we take for granted in education. That students are on a conveyor belt moving from one subject to the next, and the illusion that if you follow on that track, you will be set for life. His point is that, there was a time when this was true, but that time has passed.
Robinson talks about our “obsession of getting kids to college,” and argues that there are many paths students can take to a successful life and that our development is more organic than linear.
I don’t mean you shouldn’t go to college, but not everybody needs to go and not everybody needs to go now. Maybe they go later, not right away.
Robinson tells the following thought-provoking story:
And I was up in San Francisco a while ago doing a book signing. There was this guy buying a book, he was in his 30s. And I said, “What do you do?” And he said, “I’m a fireman.” And I said, “How long have you been a fireman?” He said, “Always. I’ve always been a fireman.” And I said, “Well, when did you decide?” He said, “As a kid.” He said, “Actually, it was a problem for me at school, because at school, everybody wanted to be a fireman.” He said, “But I wanted to be a fireman.”
And he said, “When I got to the senior year of school, my teachers didn’t take it seriously. This one teacher didn’t take it seriously. He said I was throwing my life away if that’s all I chose to do with it; that I should go to college, I should become a professional person, that I had great potential and I was wasting my talent to do that.” And he said, “It was humiliating because he said it in front of the whole class and I really felt dreadful. But it’s what I wanted, and as soon as I left school, I applied to the fire service and I was accepted.”
And he said, “You know, I was thinking about that guy recently, just a few minutes ago when you were speaking, about this teacher,” he said, “because six months ago, I saved his life.” He said, “He was in a car wreck, and I pulled him out, gave him CPR, and I saved his wife’s life as well.” He said, “I think he thinks better of me now.”
The Ken Robinson TED Talk was great food for thought for the Edge in Education Group. After viewing the video, parents broke into small groups and developed pointed questions emanating from Robinson’s talk, such as:
- How do you implement revolution when others have traditional expectations of school?
- How do we personalize learning for kids?
- What is the place of tradition in school?
- How can the school develop the individual potential of each child?
- How does personalization prepare students for standardized expectations?
- How do we prepare for a future we don’t know?
- How do we get our kids to connect to the world outside?
- What is the school’s responsibility? Home’s responsibility?
- How much time we dedicate to mind vs. body vs. spirit?
- How do we learn to take risks?
Many of these excellent questions raised by parents are the same kinds of issues that educators are grappling with. In order for schools to truly respond to the needs of today’s learners, all constituents, teachers, as well as parents and students, must take part in the conversation. There is no, one right answer to these challenging questions, and each school must find a way forward that resonates with that school’s ethos and character.