Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Summing up the last three months

Every screening is a wonderful opportunity to meet fascinating people who are engaged or wanting to engage in meaningful education. I am continually impressed by the quality of each encounter. Being onstage with Ann Cook of the New York Performance Standards Consortium http://performanceassessment.org/ in Manhattan, and Deb Meier at the MassArt screening were certainly high points, as were the conversations I was able to have with Marion Brady and Wayne Jennings when I was in Minnesota. They and others have added depth to my understanding of the complex issues we face.

Getting to spend a day in a school is part of the joy of this adventure. I got half a day at Central Park East 1, and a full day at Baker Demonstration School. Besides the warm whole child atmosphere I saw in each school, there were teaching strategies that I want to bring back to my home base. At CPE1 it was the use of blocks and the idea of year long individual projects. At Baker Demonstration School it was the effective way a teacher recorded children's ideas, simplifying and grouping them so children were naturally seeing a way to organize their thoughts, plus the use of tops for an interdisciplinary theme.

The audience in Macomb, Illinois, where I was brought by Western Illinois professor Jim La Prad, included many parents and teachers interested in how to make change in a rural school district. Also in the audience were a local newspaper reporter, and the news director for the local public radio station. Here are links to the articles and radio interview that came from that:

http://tristatesradio.com/post/teaching-child-rather-test#disqus_thread http://www.mcdonoughvoice.com/newsnow/x1907503958/-August-to-June-teacher-visits-WIU-to-promote-holistic-education-model

Both Jim and Ayla Gavins (who moderated the MassArt screening) asked the kinds of questions of panelists that gave them and the audience much to chew on. I am learning from them what to suggest to others who want guidance on how to organize a panel after the film screens--most important part seems to be to make it personal, reflecting on portions of the film that resonate.

At the International Democratic Education Conference I certainly was getting as much as I was giving! I listened to presentations on the rights of children, the creation of “education cities” in Caguas Puerto Rico, Hadera Israel, and Indianapolis IN, and much more! It was so exciting to see the contingent from Myanmar ready to bring principles of democratic education to a country so long repressed.

Of course the ebullient welcome we all received from the Puerto Rican sponsors of the event was wonderful. This was a chance for them to bring together many different parts of the education world in Puerto Rico and forge alliances for change. It was not simple coincidence that legislation to help alternative education flourish was passed at the same time as the conference was happening. I continue to be so impressed by the work of Justo Mendez Aramburu, and his wife Ana Yris of Nuestra Escuela, http://www.nuestraescuela.org/ and was pleased to be of help as they grow a child-centered preschool, Nuestra Escuelita. If any readers with background in early childhood education can volunteer your help as they transform a conventional school, let me know and I will put you in touch with the director!

Copies of AUGUST TO JUNE went home to Kerala India with Amukta Mahapatra, Japan with Kageki Asakura, Turkey with Eylem Korkmaz, Austrailia with Chris Price, Holland with Gerard Aartsen, Germany with Vivian Breuckes, several places in Myanmar (Burma), as well as with many people from Puerto Rico and mainland US.

I love it when the film goes on its way without us present. Here are portions of a message I just received from Andrew Rassmusen, of the Des Moines Teachers Association:

“…We had a very stimulating discussion that centered on the HUGE differences between the kind of whole child centered education seen in the film with the test score/accountability/blame the teacher reforms that our current governor and some in our state legislature are debating. This film opened a lot of parents eyes up to the realization that their child's test score is the least important measurement of progress and how the extreme obsession with test scores is leading to the extinction of classrooms that care for the whole child. Hope many of the folks at the movie contact their state legislators!
…The screening was a great success and I absolutely fell in love with the movie. It was almost bittersweet though as I thought about how many of the education "reforms" we are being piled down with will make the kind of classroom I witnessed on screen so much more difficult to realize. However, I left the screening energized and ready to fight even harder to preserve quality education for all of our kids! Thank you so much for letting us experience this film!”

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Teaming up with Phyllis to reach beyond the choir

I asked Phyllis Bush

to write a short piece about herself, so you could see why she and I are working together. Here is what she wrote:

"After growing up in Fort Dodge, Iowa, I graduated with a degree in English from the University of Iowa. I spent the first seven years of my career teaching middle school English/language arts in Rockford, Illinois and in District 59 in the Chicago suburbs. In 1973 we moved to Fort Wayne, Indiana. After a year of subbing and working on my Masters degree, I spent the next 24 years as an English teacher/department chair at South Side High School, an inner city school with a strong sense of community, despite the fact that many of our students were economically deprived.

After many years of very happy retirement, I began to be concerned about the negative consequences of No Child Left Behind. Watching the devastating effects of both the Race to the Top and the current political hostility towards public schools and teachers, I became alarmed. While I was too busy going to school, teaching, and raising a family to have been an activist during the 60s, now that I am in my 60s, I have the time and the passion to speak out for those who are too intimidated and too fearful to speak for themselves. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it!"

When we met during the events this summer in Washington DC, Phyllis and I began to talk about how to use the voting power and expertise of retired teachers and grandparents(and anyone else who wants to join us!) to change the direction the federal government and states are taking education. She told me about her experiences explaining to people (who have only heard sound bites) what is really going on. These are often people who would not go to a public screening, but might well come to a small group of friends meeting in someone’s home. The idea of using either the Mis-Education Nation video http://vimeo.com/29748608 or August to June for such small group meetings, led to thinking of the people who would lead such groups as ambassadors of sorts: making the link between people with progressive ideas who are aware of what is happening in public education (but whose jobs are not threatened by their speaking out), and people of good will who might be energized by hearing more about what the situation looks like “on the ground.”

When Phyllis got back to Indiana, she and 10-15 people met with Anthony Cody and brought up the idea. She also wrote to Rita Solnet of Parents Across America. In the meantime I talked to several CA retired teachers. Ray Bacchetti, of Palo Alto, Mark Phillips of Woodacre, and Bonnie Theile and Terry Sayre of Tulare all asked to be kept in the loop. In October we posted a discussion site on my Facebook page, but Facebook did one of its unpredictable changes and my site no longer has a discussion page...a good reason to put this idea onto my faithful Blogster Blog!

It is our feeling that there needs to be a clear action we suggest when such meetings are held. We are also looking for a good title that people can refer to. I have been using 'senior ambassadors," but that may sound more like the name of a travel group! So our first step is to grow a bit bigger by creating an online community that can come up with a unified direction, outreach ideas, and a name.

Would you be interested in joining this effort?

In a separate but related move, the Indiana folks are considering using Diane Ravitch’s visit this coming March as a reason for showing several films at a local theater: Race to Nowhere, American Teacher, The Inconvenient Truth About Waiting For Superman, Lessons From The Real World, and August to June were suggested. There is also a possibility of working with Jan Resseger, Minister for Public Education with the United Church of Christ (who wrote a powerful article: http://www.ucc.org/justice/public-education/pdfs/Message-12-web-version.pdf) and arranging screenings through UCC. If Diane is coming to your area, that might be an impetus to suggest to whatever group is bringing her that they also screen AUGUST TO JUNE!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Lock-stepped in California's central valley, and looking for change

Sometimes when I repeat what teachers tell us to people who only hear about school reform in the media, the response is incredulity. Last night’s screening in Lemoore CA, put on by the Tulare/King's County Reading Council drew an audience of teachers, student-teachers and at least one school board member. Listening to the stories that seeing our film evoked, it is impossible to ignore how devastating the effects of NCLB continue to be. Most of the elementary level teachers present must spend 2 1/2 hours a day on disjointed language arts activities that are prescribed for them with little or no room for variance. Content--the stuff of curiosity that builds both knowledge and enjoyment, is almost non-existent except as little snippets attached to writing or reading paragraphs. Testing (and discussion of test results) is continual. They search for moments when they can add creativity and joy to their classrooms. It often must be done clandestinely.

The older teachers present remember working with many of the ideas they saw in our film. Schools in this area embraced the Tribes curriculum. Class council, creating classroom agreements and cross age learning were familiar to them. But NCLB erased social-emotional and project-based curricula from their classrooms. Some spoke of being demoralized. Several were considering leaving the profession, and others had retired early because what had once been their passion became unbearable to witness. What a price we are paying for this disastrous policy!

Taking a stand in these economic hard times is not easy. The risk of being fired may be real. But people at a distance from classrooms need to hear how schools have changed. I invite teachers to write (anonymously if that feels safer), to let others read concrete examples of how your students and you have been affected by the regimen placed on your classrooms. Post them here, or on our Facebook page. If you have found strategies for how to fit meaningful learning into top-down structured days, share those as well! While we work for change children are growing up, and any ways you have found to combat the tedium are welcome.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Answering Alethea

What a summer it has been. I intended that my August blog would be about the conference and demonstration we went to in Washington DC, and the energizing time we had at the Alternative Education Resource Organization Conference we attended right afterward, but then Alethea Crandell sent me an email with a great bunch of questions after she saw the film in DC at Busboys and Poets, and it became clear that answering her would lead to a meaty entry here, as well as whatever she does with it on her own blog danucreative.wordpress.com

What follows are her questions, and my attempts to answer:

Would you say this form of education is about teaching children to self-actualize? How does the Open classroom do this?

While I don't use the term (and would have to reread Maslow to make sure I'm using it correctly) certainly one of our goals is the kind of self knowledge that might lead to self actualization. From the start of their time with us we help children reflect--asking "how do you feel right now?" and modeling using "I felt" when responding in a conflict situation, remarking on their process as they approach tasks, so that they are aware that there are many ways to do things, and that they each have their own learning style. We also encourage laughter and comfort. We are very aware of the need for children to build body awareness, and address that through a variety of physical activities. Perhaps most important is that children in our setting have time to find and pursue their own interests. They can even be bored--as sometimes that is the very thing that leads them to new discoveries.

What advice do you have for parents and educators on nurturing creativity? Nurturing curiosity? Nurturing a love of learning? Nurturing the confidence to ask questions and be engaged?

My personal experience is that listening, observing, and sharing one's own excitement without overwhelming the child is key. One offers the space for creativity to happen (this can be a physical space with materials that can be used in an open ended manner, or mental space where a child's mind is free to wander) one is there to share information when needed, and one reflects on their discoveries with warmth and curiosity, showing that their process is just as important to you as their product.

How did you come to be a teacher in this format? What are the most important skills needed to teach children holistically?

As I mention in August to June, there were many influences that led me to this format. Besides those teachers I touch upon in the film, my parents' values played an important part. I attended Antioch College, and my education course work included reading and discussing Maslow, Rogers, Neill, Bruner, Holt, Axline, Ashton-Warner, Erikson, Mearns, Betelheim...and more. All that I read confirmed a gut instinct I had about the importance of addressing the individual. When I began my teaching career I was an art teacher with an art cart moving between two inner city schools in Dayton Ohio, and seeing about 500 students a week. The following year I taught 6-8 year olds in a Summerhill-influenced independent school in Los Angeles. Each setting honed my understanding of what I had read, but frankly, just as children learn by hands-on experiences, I needed many years to meld what I believed into the way I taught. I don't know if there is one most important skill needed to teach children holistically. Certainly developing the habit of reflection and a willingness to see things from another's perspective are very important. Not being wedded to one "right way" is crucial.

How do you think American schools need to be changed to teach self-actualization? Creativity? Curiosity? Love of learning?

To teach self-actualization, creativity, curiosity, and love of learning those things need to be part of a teacher's own experience throughout his or her career. American schools need to be places where teachers are nurtured as well as students. That might include more extensive mentoring, or making time for teachers to work collegially and offer substantial support to each other to continue growing. The experiential parts of teacher training need to include experiences of these areas as well. In tandem we need to look at the separation that has developed between those studying to be education administrators and principals, and those studying to be teachers. Administrators need to value holistic approaches as much as teachers do, and develop skills that will help them model these important areas in their school communities.

How do you nurture creativity in your own life? What advice would you have for aspiring creatives?

I am lucky to have many creative outlets. I am a fiber artist, have written and illustrated children's books, and enjoy writing poetry. The movie itself has been a wonderful collaborative creative experience for my husband and me, but just as with teaching, it has been important to find ways to renew my creative juices For me my garden has been a most satisfying way to do so. I love watching plants grow as much as I love watching kids grow!

Making time for creativity seems to be one of the hardest things for many creative people. Giving oneself permission to carve out that time may be easier said than done, but it will make all the difference.

What was the process of making the film? How did you decide to make the film? How did you learn to make films? What were the day-to-day activities in making it? How did you get it distributed? How did you get it in film festivals? What was the process of promoting the film and the message it conveys?

Whew! There is a short answer to this and a very very long one! For the long one I recommend reading the archives of the blog I have kept since I retired and began working with Tom editing the film, and figuring our how to bring it to the world. http://www.augusttojune.blogspot.com/ We don't have a distributor other than ourselves at this point, and are still figuring out how to promote the film and its message. Tom had been a documentary film maker for many years. He had made an earlier film about the Open Classroom in the 80's called To Make A Difference, and had often wished he had time to make a more intimate film that could explore this way of teaching through the evolving and complex school lives of children. With my retirement as an incentive, he decided to bite the bullet and make filming my class his priority the last year I taught. It took a while for Tom to understand how to best accomplish his goal, and there were (not unexpectedly) many threads that he started following and then discarded. For example, he had thought he would just follow a few children, but soon saw that he needed to be more responsive to what was actually happening in the classroom. Deciding to mic individual students was a crucial turning point. Kids who wanted to would wear a radio mic for a few hours--as long as it felt comfortable, which allowed Tom to be less intrusive, and still record their conversations.

The convergence of his interest in documenting a holistic approach with the growing punitive and narrowing education trends happening nation wide gave more urgency to the project, so much so that it has taken over our lives for the past 5 years!

What advice would you have for aspiring filmmakers? What advice or knowledge do you wish you had at the start of this film?

It is easier than ever to make films, but it is at least as hard to get a film to an audience. Be ready to do your outreach homework, and start that as soon as you define your project, whether you are applying for grants, or self financing. I don't know how we would have found time, but we wish we had reviewed our footage more while we were shooting. We really didn't know what we had until the school year was over, which meant many missed opportunities.

What are your plans for retirement? What are your future plans in regards to creativity? In making a difference in things you believe in?

I think we will be working on bringing this film and its message to audiences as a full time occupation for at least another year, and probably a good deal more. In the meantime we have begun a shorter film which will be shot at Mission Hill Pilot School in Boston this year. We want to explore how the kind of meaningful education we show can be achieved in an urban setting, and are hoping that a half hour film will have a better chance of being shown on TV, and therefore reach a larger audience. I will be learning how to be Tom's sound person--hopefully there will be some creativity involved there! When I am home I will continue to be part of the school community, occasionally subbing, but also just enjoying being at school and helping out as needed once a week or so.

My garden continues to call me, and I have a ceramic mural project in my future. I have been working with a retired colleague on an original quilt design (using Japanese fabrics) that we pick back up whenever we have time! But clearly the chord the film has struck has gotten me more and more involved as an advocate for a change in our national priorities. I have met many wonderful educators and parents, and have ideas I want to pursue together with some of them. One that is rising to the top of the pile is the idea of creating a way for retired teachers and grandparents to have their voices heard.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

I've been singing this song so long...just got to sing a little louder!

In May of 2009 I sent an early compilation of AUGUST TO JUNE footage to Secretary Duncan, and received a partially form-letter response from Assistant Secretary Joseph Conaty suggesting that if our district had made "significant gains in closing the achievement gap" we might want to apply for a grant. Cleaning up my files, I re-read what I wrote back to him. As we prepare to meet with educators from across the country at the SOS March and National Call To Action in DC in July, with alternative educators at AERO in August, with progressive educators at the Association for Constructivist Teaching, The Association for Experiential Education, and the Coalition of Essential Schools in October and November, it still rings true to me. Here is an excerpt:

"If your reference to achieving “at high levels” means how well our students score on standardized tests, we will not meet your measure. The parents in our programs strenuously object to that approach. After thoroughly studying the subject, over 90% of those in the Open Classroom program, and a sizable number in our other programs have chosen to opt their students out of the high stakes tests that California administers. As a result our district is labeled as needing “program improvement.”

One visit to our classrooms and it will be clear that we are the exact opposite of a failing school. Why should we be punished? Why aren’t the many measurement models that would affirm our success getting the acknowledgment they deserve, so states could incorporate them into their accepted assessments?

As you re-evaluate NCLB, and the federal government’s role in creating successful systems of public education, I urge you to support authentic assessments. These would include models based on observation, portfolios, parent/ teacher collaborations, accomplishing the goals of individual education plans, high school graduation rates (that follow individual students from elementary school through high school), and the percentage of students accepted into institutions of higher education. They would address the broad content of the education given to students, the adequacy of the facilities, the support for teachers, and the continuity and scope of services offered to students entering school at a disadvantage."

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

My, how you've grown!

As I have wandered the internet these past few years trying to place what we are doing in context within the world of American education, I have been amazed by the number of people and organizations I had never come in contact with who turn out to be fellow travelers. Some are individuals writing blogs, some are part of long established organizations. In some cases I find myself in total agreement with the views they express. Other times I am teasing out the thread of agreement from a complex web whose other threads don't match up so well with my thinking. Several organizations have come and gone while I perused the ether. Some (perhaps problematically more than one) are attempting to be THE umbrella group. I'm beginning to recognize familiar names cropping up as contributors to more than one organization. I find new voices every day: there is no way I can keep up with all of this, and that may be a good thing!

Some have become touchstones: Betsy L Angert of Empathy and Education combs the internet too, and often sends me articles of interest, as well as being a passionate supporter of our work, always looking for ways to bring the film and its ideas to audiences in Florida and elsewhere. Monty Neill's work at Fairtest is so important, leading me to articles I might not find on my own, validating what I sense to be true with the work of scholars and investigators. Rick Posner tickled me from our first phone conversation, mixing Yiddish aphorisms with serious conversation about how to measure the ways that unconventional schools make a difference. I admire Deb Meier tremendously, and read her and Diane Ravitch's Bridging The Differences and also John Merrow's Learning Matters for word-smithed musings that come to some different conclusions, but often enlighten. We met Mark Phillips "in real life" at the very beginning of this project, and interact on-line and off. I could name over a dozen wonderful people I have met because of the Featherstones, who continue to cheer us on.

You see what I mean?

I found Anthony Cody when he started Teacher's Letters to Obama and followed him to SOS March and National Call to Action. It is the closest thing to a really big umbrella group that I have found. The past two months we have worked together with Anthony on a series of spots for the gathering in Washington DC that this group of people (with demanding day jobs!) is attempting to organize on a shoe string budget. Anthony is a clear thinker and a pleasure to know and work with. Three of the spots are now out, and in the process of getting them to a bigger audience I have found many many more groups representing parents, counselors, teachers, educators, all wanting meaningful education for our country's children, and convinced that we can't simply test our way there.

And yes, our work is finding its place in this bigger and bigger movement.

Here are the links to the first three spots: Here's to the Teachers: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w8zkjH8pGNk
Here's to the Students:
and Here's to the Parents:

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Wise words to frame our story

On a lovely Sunday in April, we drove down to Palo Alto to Channing House, a large senior living complex. We were invited by Dr. Ray Bacchetti, whose long career in education included serving on a school board, being in the Stanford administration, disbursing education grants, and being designated a Scholar in residence at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. He had decided to screen 22 minutes of excerpts from AUGUST TO JUNE as a first exposure to the film, leaving plenty of time to put the film in context with his remarks and a question and answer period. We were very satisfied to see the size of the audience--my guess is there were close to 200 people. Here follows extensive excerpts from Ray's excellent opening remarks:

An Important Piece of School Reform: Teaching the Whole Child

"Welcome. I’m very pleased to be here and to see you all here too. Education is dear to my heart, especially public education—what used to be called a century ago the “free, public, common school.” Having my granddaughter, Emily Taylor, here too is a special pleasure. Emily graduated from Brown University last June and is in the Stanford Teacher Education Program. She plans to be one of the 1.7 million new teachers the nation will need over the next 5 years.

School reform is a huge topic. Today we’re going to deal with an important piece of it—teaching the whole child. That may sound to some like code. Of course you teach the whole child—it’s the whole child who comes to school every day. True enough. But one can see a whole child in a classroom and chose to ignore parts of that child. A teacher can concentrate on their minds and ignore or pay only marginal attention to their social, emotional, and ethical learning, to how they relate to each other, how they cooperate, how they feel in different situations and how those feelings help or get in the way of learning."

"...[Emily]will be entering the educational system at a time of unprecedented scrutiny from . . .

-- the federal and state governments,
-- business, especially big business,
-- foundations large enough to affect priorities in policy and practice at state and national levels,
-- reformers of many stripes,
--and many others."

"President Obama recently said that teachers are nation builders. My friend, John Merrow, the education correspondent for the NewsHour, [who by the way introduced me to Amy and her marvelous video] recently blogged that the schools are ill-equipped for nation building. But the question isn’t whether the schools are or are not building the nation. The question what kind of a nation are they building.

-- If schools don’t teach problem solving and creativity, where will future citizens turn when there are problems to solve and alternatives to create?
-- If they don’t teach the values and skills of empathy, resilience, self-confidence, honesty, and collaboration, what will take the place of those qualities in a healthy society?
-- If the value of diversity and the imperative of inclusion isn’t part of the school day, what does that say about kids’ abilities as adults to care about social justice and whether society works for everyone?

By paying insufficient attention to the recruitment and cultivation of teachers, by insisting on curriculum standards that are narrow and prescriptive about what teachers must do to meet them, by focusing on fill-in-the-bubble assessments that are easy to grade, average, and report, we are hollowing out what school can and should be.

William James once said that we can’t decide not to decide, because that in itself is a decision. We need to think about the irrevocable truth of that and keep asking—what sort of a nation are we building?

This afternoon, Emily’s and my objective is to take a look at what a rich place a classroom can be and how we’re going to get teachers to be, and to be seen to be, the nation’s partners with parents in raising up generation after generation of people who think democracy is the best thing since sliced bread and are able and willing to keep it going and getting better . . .

And who at the same time will themselves be life-long learners, potent contributors to the economy, people whose lives are enriched by diversity, and who become the sort of parents kids are entitled to have.My favorite philosopher, John Dewey, once wrote about this question of how good our schools should be. I’m very fond of his answer. He said:

'What the best and wisest parents want for their children, that must the community want for all of its children.'

I like that sentiment for several reasons. For its core message, of course. For its emphasis on wisdom. For its placing responsibility on the community. And for the implication that all children are our children in the grand scheme of our American social contract."

"Initiatives multiply like mosquitoes, reforms are everywhere, political interventions happen in the District of Columbia, New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, and up and down the state of California, some for better reasons than others.

The one repeating voice in all this is the centrality of the teacher. If a child has a good teacher in elementary school for three years in a row, that child’s educational outcomes are destined to be much, much better than those of a child who has three poor teachers in a row, almost regardless of what the rest of her or his educational experiences might be.

What are the qualities a teacher needs to have to be that “good” teacher? In my experience, they come under three headings:

1. Subject matter knowledge. For many of today’s critics, this is not only #1 but it’s meant to trump the others. Of course it’s vital! Teachers need to know how subject matter goes together, how we know things in math, geography, literature, social studies, and so forth. There are different ways of knowing, and subject matter is where those ways are learned. To teach for understanding, teachers must understand subject matter well.
But subject matter alone won’t do the trick.

2. Pedagogy. Teachers need to know how to teach. Teaching isn’t telling, it’s not the product of extrinsic rewards like gold stars (at least not if you want learning to last), its not a result of stern demands (at least not for everyone), and it’s not the product of children doing whatever they want. It’s not the same in different subjects nor for children in different grades. And it’s often not the same for different children—from backgrounds with low word counts in family talk, or where English is a second language, or for those who go home each day to dysfunctional families, or kids with chips on their shoulders or backpacks loaded with indifference. Pedagogical knowledge is to teachers what surgical technique is to surgeons, prosecutorial skill is to a lawyer, or a game plan and the ability to execute it is to a quarterback.

3. Child development. Understanding where children are in their cognitive, moral, physical, social, and emotional development is vital. This is the third leg of the triangle. This is where teachers know what is age-appropriate, what maturity looks like in terms of readiness for particular kinds of learning, when expectations are reasonable and when they are not.

This triangle of knowledge about subject-matter, pedagogy, and child development anchors schooling. But there’s another element that pulls them all together in the service of learning and growing up, and that is one’s philosophy of education. To oversimplify a complex subject, I can divide approaches, or philosophies, as predominately focused on basics vs. engaged in the progressive exploration of a problematic world, or as subject-matter centered vs. child centered, or as a matter of discipline vs. discovery. I can also declare without fear of contradiction what most of us have experienced—that many teachers use combinations of all of these.

But what you’re about to look at in this excerpt from the video “August to June” is a classroom exemplifying the whole-child approach without slighting basics, or subject matter, or discipline. The film is subtitled, “bringing life to school: one year in an unconventional public school classroom figuring out what really counts.” The teacher knits many elements together in a way that makes sense from a child’s perspective and takes each boy or girl from where he or she is to where they need to go on this particular stage of their journey—as students and as people. When you look at this school, note how the classroom looks, how the kids relate to one another and the teacher to them, how important resolving conflict is to keeping children open to learning, and, in the scene where parents are talking about what they want for their kids, how long and rich the list they develop."

Ray got much applause, and the clips were very well received. The hardest part of this day was listening to Emily talk about the compromises she saw in front of herself. While she clearly sees the value to whole child experiential education, a newly minted teacher finds few such schools in which to begin a career. Because she is dedicated to reaching society's most vulnerable, she will teach next year in a narrowly focused charter school in Brooklyn's Bedford Stuyvesant neighborhood that is devoted to just such children. While she will put her heart, mind, and Stanford training into her teaching, I only wish young teachers were finding more places to begin their careers where the whole child in all her or his complexity and possibilities lived at the center of the classroom.

The discussion after the screening was rich, ranging from concerns about Teach For America to reminiscences of the start of what became NCLB (and how angry teachers felt about what was happening) from a woman who had taught in Texas.

Driving back home we realized that we should have brought some way for these motivated grandparents and elders to let others know their response. I'm wondering about developing either a petition or a form letter we could carry with us in the future.

Ray will be showing the entire film at Channing House on May 2. From what we saw, I think he will have a good turn out, and more lively conversation!