Dr. Barb Fulton, the beloved founder of the Fulton School at St. Albans, and incidentally, my mom, would be celebrating her 66th birthday today. Dr. Barb, as she was affectionately nicknamed, was a champion for kids, believing that school should be a fun and joyful place, responsible to children’s overall well-being, and character growth, rather than purely academic. She required classrooms to be student-centered and hands-on before it was fashionable, she educated parents and teachers tirelessly about child development, and she was a beautiful model of courage and grace and honesty as she battled cancer, while working full-time, for the last six years of her life. Happy Birthday, Dr. Barb, and thanks for all you gave us!
I was recently reading a list of Essential Capacities for the 21st Century School written by a National Association of Independent Schools Commission. I find the list inspiring and exciting, reminding me of the privilege it is to have an influence on the world through educating the next generations. It provides a very general guide for the teachers and me, reminding us of our priorities, as well as the challenges our students will face. I also find this list particularly encouraging for us as a school, because it resonates with our mission and philosophy. Course content is important for students, but the below capacities will change course of their lives. The list headlines are 1. Analytical and Creative Thinking, 2. Complex Communication, 3. Leadership and Teamwork, 4. Digital and Quantitative Literacy, 5. Global Perspective, 6. Adaptability, Initiative, and Risk Taking, and 7. Integrity and Ethical Decision-Making. How have you developed these capacities in your own lives? How can you encourage these capacities in the home?
The Washington Post published an article on preparing middle schoolers for college last week, “8 Subtle Ways to Ready Middle Schoolers for College” and I thought it was actually a solid piece for parenting students of any age (other than the Algebra I bit). The article is actually very practical and very brief and provides some good general principles for college, as well as for life. It makes complete sense that our children will do better on their own if they have been doing household chores for years, if they are people of strong character, if they fill their transcripts with hobbies they love, rather than empty tasks to please admissions offices. Read it and let it guide you where it will.
Last week, I went to see “Race to Nowhere“, a documentary about the college-driven lives of our children. There is certainly a segment of the student population struggling with stress levels that are appalling, but that parents and teachers don’t seem to recognize very easily–or perhaps we think they’re a necessary evil. What I found compelling, though, was the discussion that inspired the title. Most upper middle class students feel as though they are in a race, to do well in school, to in order to have impressive transcripts, in order to get into the top colleges, in order to get into the top grad schools, in order to get the best job, in order to…. it never seems to end. One particularly articulate teenager in the film suggests that the emperor has no clothes, calling it a race to nowhere. It begs the question of all of us: what do we want for our children? What does a good education mean? What are its guarantees? These are questions we all, teachers, parents, and students, need to wrestle with so that our decisions, our reactions, and our plans are purposeful and meaningful.
Here is a VERY comprehensive article on technology and how it’s changing our lives, or more specifically, our brains. This article from the London Review of Books focuses on distraction, memory, and creativity, but is not concerned with children per say. As we protect and stimulate our children’s brains, all evidence points to caution when it comes to the effects of technology on creativity. Counter to what you might think, Jim Holt does indicate a number of areas where technology is making us sharper (eg. MRI’s of experienced Google users versus inexperienced Google users shows positive structural changes in the brain for making connections between concepts). Of course, when we’re in the thick of change, it’s difficult to gauge how it’s changing us, but we are being remiss if we do not at least reflect on it now and then.