What Does It Take to Revolutionize Education in the United States? – Aspen Ideas Festival and the Grandfather of 21st century skills

Upon listening to this I could not help but recall Diane Ravitch’s research into various education fads. She outlines all the failed reform in Left Back : Life and Death of the American School System. Here Eli is asked what he would do if he were Edu. Secretary, I was asked a similar question on an interview- how would I consult Superintendent Cami Anderson about the expanded learning day initiatives. Well, Ravitch was Education Secretary, she has a plethora of insights and she is brave to change ingrained opinions based on empirical evidence. This clip is interesting but the bottom line is no one has the panacea and anyone claiming to have even as much as half should be carefully evaluated.

An interesting fact I learned from her research of the history of public education: Vocational and public highschools in the 1880s offered courses in industrial trades like bricklaying, plumbing, sewing ,metal work and carpentry; as well as bookkeeping, music, art, drawing and surveying.

To answer the question of this post: “What Does It Take to Revolutionize Education in the United States? Perhaps we can look to someone promoting project based learning all the way back in the 1890s: “Eliot urged educators… natural sciences such as botany, zoology, geology and foreign languages. Eliot opposed lock step recitations and memory drills, especially the customary practice of memorizing geographic facts and grammatical rules. He wanted students actively involved in laboratory demonstrations, where they could be expected to observe, weigh ,measure and do fieldwork. It was not subject matter…that was important…it was mental power, the power to think,reason,observe,and describe…what educators in the late twentieth century would call ” critical thinking skills.”

Notes from the Field – Preface

With my Teaching Fellowship at a close, I look back at the past two years with pride, mixed feelings, and a   I wouldn’t dare use the term accomplishment, some days were just too real, I felt like quitting , I felt like I wasn’t making a difference, I felt like some of my students deserved so much more than I could give them or my program could deliver, or that their parents could give them.
Most recently my 6th grade girls, most of them had immigrated to Newark,NJ as a result of the Haiti earthquake and they were so amazingly intelligent and funny, sponges : absorbing English and excelling in mechanics, usage and grammar skills more so than there American-born peers. Middle schoolers are a special age to engage, they have mood swings, they are on the cusp feeling like they are adults and know it all so they are infinitely stubborn. At the same time , they are so sensitive, they want to fit in, they want to be loved – they put up a front – they have to growing up where they do- they wear their “tough” mask, their mask of apathy. Both myself and my teacher colleagues managed to get glimpses in to their struggles and see them for who they really are.

My Haitian girls were so enthusiastic for Citizen Schools , they took the lead in their apprenticeships- hands-on learning projects that focused around a specific 21st century skill. Apprenticeships were taught by a volunteer ( Citizen Teacher) from the community that I helped recruit. I had the opportunity to oversee these projects , curricula and drive mastery toward our semi-annual showcase the WOW! What a whirlwind it has been, I never had a chance to reflect on this dense, emotionally and professionally challenging experience therefore I plan to reflect via this blog platform-  so called ‘notes from the field’  excerpts from my experiences complemented with images from the past two years and informed by education reform/non profit management articles as they apply.

Citizen Teacher from a Lotus Yoga , based in Newark leads the class in tree pose.
“Go with the Flow”- Yoga apprenticeship practices for their performance at the Spring 2011 WOW!


Turquoise Knobs!

So I love the blog decor it yourself , its perfect for someone who would like to invest in functional living and inspired spaced without the huge cost. Thus I finally got around to adding an important element to an abandoned piece i collected off the street / So last year when I was living in Jersey City I spotted this awesomely shabby chique bed-side shelf, sure some chipped white paint but otherwise very sturdy . I single handedly ( or rather hippeed-ly) carried it up the 4 flights of my walk up apt., leaning it against my hip to turn the corners at each flight. It was missing two shelf knobs and after months of putting it off I finally got these awesome turquoise blue knobs from Anthropologie- boy is that store overpriced but I decided to splurge on my faithful drawer! Now it looks like this ! I personally dig it!