Saturday, March 30, 2013

Cognitive Dissonance

A friend asked me today why I admired the work of the folks in Reggio Emilia so much. I sent on this quote by Howard Gardner to reply.

"As an American educator, I cannot help be struck by certain paradoxes. In America, we pride ourselves in being focused in children, yet we do not pay sufficient attention to what they are actually expressing. We call for cooperative learning among children, yet we have rarely sustained cooperation at the level of teacher and administrator. We call for artistic works, but we rarely fashion environments that can truly support or inspire them. We call for parental involvement but are loathe to share ownership, responsibility, and credit with parents. We recognize the need for community, but we so often crystallize immediately into interest groups. We hail the discovery method, but we do not have the confidence to allow children to follow their own noses and hunches. We call for debate but often spurn it; we call for listening but prefer to talk; we are affluent but do not safeguard those resources that can allow us to remain so and to foster the affluence of others. Reggio is so instructive in these respects. We are often intent to invoke slogans, the educators in Reggio work tirelessly to solve many of these fundamental-and fundamentally difficult-issues."

Howard Gardner

-- Posted from mobile phone

Friday, March 22, 2013

Reggio Emilia Article Part II Posted

Just got word from Edutopia that part II of the article on my trip to Reggio Emilia was posted. Schools as 'community learning centers...

Engage ; )

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Reggio Emilia Article Part I

My new article posted on Edutopia, part I about my time in Reggio Emilia at the International Conference this last February. 

Monday, March 11, 2013

New Zealand to San Diego

It was difficult to shift gears from an immersive trip in New Zealand, shore up an Edutopia post about my time in Italy, and start exploring San Diego... 

but I've managed so far ; )

Fresh off (actually a little fried) after 15 immersive days in New Zealand, I've landed in San Diego to catch up with an old friend, a player of mine from my coaching days back at CVU named Jeremiah Cook. It's been too long since I've seen him in person. He's been gracious enough to let me stay at his house here. Cook is a successful DJ here in San Diego and we've had some great conversations about the past, future, the trials of the music business and the explosive growth of social media marketing he's experienced in his craft. I'm looking forward to seeing him practice his craft tonight at a local club.

I'm also here to visit to High Tech High, a school I've been interested in for some time. I'll visit the school either today or tomorrow. I'm very excited to see their work finally and interview some of the folks who've seen their system evolve.

Turns out, Dan French is in town as well at a conference in San Diego this week. Pretty funny to venture to San Diego and have dinner tonight with a person who lives in your neighborhood back in Vermont. As usual, I always look forward to seeing him and catching up.

With all the travel (and time zones)... Italy, New Zealand and now San Diego, I'm anxious to see my family, rest up a bit and ponder the future. We'll have about two weeks at home and then we're all off to explore Europe to see more schools and continue my research in Reggio Emilia.

Here's what I'm pondering this morning...

The keynote speech in at the Reggio Winter Institute was delivered by Carla Rinaldi. I found her speech to be nothing short of brilliant, and it's the focus of the article I just submitted to Edutopia. Rinaldi spoke in the speech about 'continuity' and how it applies to education. I've read over my notes from Rinaldi's speech more than five times since my trip to Italy.
"Schools must open up the dialogue of learning past it's own walls. Then we see how valued community involvement and professional development is collegial work and shared professional development. In this practice of coming together… people begin to understand the incompleteness of their professionality and we develop an understanding of interdependence on our colleagues." 
Carla Rinaldi

This ties in with a conversation I had the lobby over lunch with Will Richardson at Educon. Will explained his investigation into how schools and community should now / could now exist. The explorations I've taken at Reggio Emilia and schools in New Zealand have me thinking along the same threads.

"In a culture of continuity, the person who is learning is the subject." 
Carla Rinaldi

What I'm seeing reinforces my longstanding belief that schools in the US need to change their practices to be more rounded... and healthy. Our growing penchant for academic rigor, and standardized testing is not balanced in so many schools I've encountered. So many people from the US I've met in my travels have said the same thing. 

Without a doubt... I could explore education around the globe full-time ; )

I'm off to get ready for the rest of the days adventures.


Saturday, March 2, 2013

Something is happening to me here...

Photo from Cape Reigna, New Zealand by Adam Provost

Tēnā koutou (meaning "hello" in Māori to three or more people... so I've learned),

Welcome from New Zealand! It's the first chance I've had to sit and write a bit since our arrival. Despite all the activity, I'm finding I'm truly relaxed here. There's a pace to the place and it's kind folk that I dearly like.

That sense of relaxation and belonging has certainly been enhanced by our gracious hosts along the way.

This far we've visited Blockhouse Bay, Henderson, and Takapuna Intermediate schools, and Lynfield College High School since we've been here. The receptions we've had from each couldn't have been finer. 

Students at Blockhouse Bay and Takapuna welcomed our group with variations of the Haka and Kapahaka and a variety of songs and dances. The student performances were quite remarkable, especially since school hasn't been in session long here in New Zealand this year. Melodic songs in Māori are something to behold, especially from students.

This group from Vermont I'm traveling with is a mix of older and younger folk in education with one Principal, three high school teachers, graduate students, and two University folks. As you can imagine, we've been approaching our work here from a variety of perspectives. 

We spent the first night in a hotel as an interim stop and then moved on to host families coordinated through the Blockhouse Bay educational community, especially the Principal there Mr. Colin Andrews. John, a high school teacher from Missisquoi and I are staying with Blockhouse Bay's Deputy Principal and his wife, Anand and Sonya Muthoo. We've had excellent meals, spirits and conversation. Anand has a wealth of experience in education and collaborative leadership. Sonya is an educator as well in a special needs school in Auckland. And no... we don't talk about education the entire time ; ) The couple has opened and introduced us to their family, their work lives, and the travels that brought them to New Zealand.

The most lengthy visit thus far came with over two days with the folks at Takapuna Intermediate School. The tech team there, Jackie, John, Eleanor, Carol, and Sylvia were very gracious with their time. I'd dare say we all hit it off fabulously. I had the chance through the generosity of the teachers there to talk with students in classes, discuss strategies, perspectives and share some history with the team during it's department meeting and have many laughs along the way. I even got recruited to teach some kids some softball skills... throwing and catching, fielding and batting. While drinking morning tea with the entire faculty over two days it's hard not to notice that our instructional ideas and philosophies mesh. Oddly... so does, for lack of a better term, our color palate. Sitting on the balcony of the faculty lounge and looking over the campus, the whole place is decked out in slate blue... the color of the rLab in Vermont.

All the environments I've experienced here are collegial, collaborative and supportive. The rapport the faculty has with each other, school leadership and the time built into the schedules here leads to great collaboration and camaraderie. That translates directly into great programs for students.

I'll confess... for a person who eats little to no fish, I've had it twice here already. Red Snapper with our host family and today Blue Nose Fish and Chips. Both meals were excellent.

I went sailing in Auckland Bay, and many thanks again to Owen Alexander for the opportunity.

Of course... despite my best efforts to reapply sun block I ended up with a good old sunburn today. The trials of swimming in the ocean and then boogie boarding down some sand dunes. Yes, you read that correctly ; )

There's more than a week to go here on our trip. I'm already sensing it's not going to be long enough.

Something is happening to me here.

Fun ideas to explore.