This past summer I received an email from one of our parents that read:
“Please let the staff know that we took our daughter to China and Thailand this summer and she didn’t go more than a day or two without saying ‘I miss my school!’ Whatever you guys are doing, keep it up. And thanks!!”
Building a school community that becomes a place teachers and students “want to be,” instead of just a place they “have to be” creates the healthy environment needed to promote deeper learning. At APIS we are striving to accomplish this in many ways. In the past, I have written about the importance of positive relationships to learning. It is through the safety of caring interpersonal relationships that we form the foundational environment for learning. This is a critical first step, but what we build on this foundation is equally important.
While I am certain, the student referred to in the email above missed school because of the relationships formed here between students and teachers, I am equally confident that the student missed school during the summer break because our school is a place filled with meaningful exploration and learning. Make no mistake, this is not an easy goal to reach, and at times we fall short. There is a constant tendency to revert to the same old teacher-oriented instructional style, but school doesn’t exist in the service of teachers, it exists in the service of students. So, we must constantly strive to provide what Dr. David Perkins from the Harvard Graduate School of Education has termed, “Lifeworthy Learning.”
Professor Perkins Writes:
Historically, the first 12 or so years of schooling have focused on educating for the known, “the tried and true, the established canon,” he writes. “This made very good sense in the many periods and places where most children’s lives were likely to be more or less like their parents’ lives. However, wagering that tomorrow will be pretty much like yesterday does not seem to be a very good bet today. Perhaps we need a different vision of education, a vision that foregrounds educating for the unknown as much as for the known.
To do that, Perkins says we need to rethink what’s worth learning and what’s worth letting go of — in a radical way.
At APIS, we are passionately pursuing such “Lifeworthy” curricula, understanding that our instructional activities and student projects must be embedded with interdisciplinary thinking and 21st century skills. It is not sufficient for students to just collect information, they must think with that information and apply their thinking to lifeworthy projects. To think with information, students use academic content knowledge to solve problems, weigh options, make decisions, and better understand their world. When we provide students consistent opportunities to engage with lifeworthy educational activities, we create a place that is meaningful, exciting, and fun to be. We create a place our students miss coming while they are on vacation. Oh yeah, and we create a place where we are preparing students for their future instead of our past.