Thanks to Jennifer Chan (@jennzia) for our current voicEd.ca writing prompt. It’s a good one, I believe, on a few levels. First, in asking us to consider something about our current system of education that is serving us well, it forces us on to a different track. No matter what direction your political views lead you, talking about school reform almost certainly pits us against the status quo. You can’t talk about change without talking about something that needs to be changed!
Yet, from time to time, I believe it’s important to step back, take stock and understand that, despite our most passionate desires to be around when we finally get things right (right, from our own perspective), many of us must to continue to live and work each day in the school communities that we are attempting to change. This poses challenges of its own, and metaphors abound to describe this experience. You likely have your favourite.
So, the prospect of separating the baby from the bath water is an important and welcome opportunity.
For me, the answer to the question about what is serving us well may come across as being a little flippant. But when I say that school is the thing, I mean that the idea of, and the commitment to, a distinct, separate and dedicated space for learning continues to be important and essential. In a world where distributed networks, online courses and social media are held up as the new movers and shakers in the reform movement, the maintenance of the idea of a physical space that is open and accessible to all for the express purpose of teaching and learning is very important.
We can talk more about what that space actually looks like and who occupies it at any given time, but I believe that, as we push further along that continuum that connects the real with the virtual, let’s not be seduced by the prospect of eliminating the physical schoolhouse.
School buildings are a tangible reminder to the community that education and learning are important. They stand as strong symbols of both equity and inequity, holding the vision of the former firmly in front of the latter.
School buildings honour the importance of connection and relationship, and understand that both are important in the learning process.
Despite an ongoing struggle to remain so, physical schools stand as unbranded institutions in a world that strives to mark and claim absolutely everything in the name of someone or something.
While I dream of someday working in a physical learning space that my parents would not recognize, for Monday, I’m thankful that we have maintained a commitment to the importance of the space that we have. I can imagine powerful learning connections—both real and virtual—beyond the walls of my local school, but I can’t imagine those walls being torn down and distributed throughout cyberspace.
So for me, my first response to the question about what is serving us well would have to be this very place called school!