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!”

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