What if….

“You, you may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one I hope some day you’ll join us And the world will live as one” – John Lennon
As I am reading, The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything, I begin to wonder what if we could change the way we run our schools.  Ken Robinson uses the term, 
the Element, to describe the place where the things we love to do and the things we are good at come together.
The books starts off describing the early life of Gillian Lynne, one of the most successful choreographers, and the early struggles in school.  Fortunately, almost by accident , when meeting with a psychiatrist it was discovered her natural talent at dancing.  At school, her experience had been seen as a failure. She turned in assignments late, her handwriting was terrible, and she tested poorly. He goes onto to describe Matt Groening, the creator of 
The Simpsons, and his boredom with school. Even though others tried to dissuade him and do something else with his life, Matt continued with his inspiration.
As I’m reading this I begin to wonder how many Gillians and Matts do we discourage everyday?  Not necessarily intentionally, but in the hustle and bustle of the everyday classroom. Where we have overcrowded classrooms with limited resources and just trying to do our best to reach as many students as we can.  And to top it off, when we must have our students prepared for achieving the highest scores on standardized testing, so we can justify the job we are doing, what happens to those students that don’t fit?
I think back a couple of years ago on one of the take your children to work days.  That particular day the average class size was approximately 15 students per period.  On this day, the class seemed focused. It allowed me the time to move about the classroom and spend time with individual students.  Upon reflection at the end of the day I thought, “wouldn’t it be nice if everyday we had smaller class sizes.”  This same thought surfaces from time to time and I believe smaller class sizes do make a differences. That in order for students to reach their “element” class size makes a dramatic difference. Now some would argue that there isn’t any true evidence that class size makes a difference.  But I must say that on that particular day it did.  And other days over the years when this same reduction in class size occurred similar results were found.
In particular, what of those students that we label as Gillian was labeled?  What if teachers had the opportunity to assist them in finding their “element” in school?  Imagine how different school would be for all.

Why Schools Aren’t a Business

The idea that schools should be run as a business and that students/parents are our customers is a worn out cliché. My first question to those that use this as their school speak is which model of business should we follow? The car industry? Insurance companies? The banks? Those that export jobs overseas? It sounds great to state this and rally those angry about education, their current job status, lack of representation, lack of healthcare or pension, etc. However, really what model should we follow?
It is very easy to make such statements without substance. Some people enjoying rallying around catchy sayings or “bold” statements without examing the logic behind such statements. The idea of running our schools like a business takes away from our ability as educators to provide a quality education.
If we take a factory approach of the business model, students begin as an unmolded piece that starts at the beginning of the conveyor belt and comes out the other end as a molded piece in which everyone thinks the same (standardized testing supports this model). Those that don’t fit that mold get discarded along the way.
Perhaps we should take the insurance model of the past, where we decide which students we decide to educate. Those that don’t learn in a traditional manner (pre-existing condition) simply are pushed aside.
We still have this mentality of the business model is an ideal situation to follow.  In taking a closer look it may not be the best model to follow