Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Back to Blogging

I had grand plans of posting on my blog every day. Sigh. Perhaps, though, it's better if I'm not so prolific; then everyone won't have to think that all I do is read the New York Times and write a blog. That's what I would think if I were reading what's been posted so far.

Tomorrow, I am heading east to attend my 20th college reunion. I went to the fifth and the fifteenth. This time I am traveling with my dear friend Laura Higgins, so that will be incredible, and then I will have at least one friend there! Imagine having a weekend and about six hours in the car to catch up, without anyone of about four feet tall asking for something. I am really looking forward to this. My mom is the heroic grandmother who is coming out for the weekend. She and Alex can spend six hours or more at the Museum of Science and Industry, as they like to do. I'm good there for about twenty minutes.

I am in the final stages of finishing up a second issue of a Lab publication titled LAB Directions. Here's a link to the first one I did: http://www.ucls.uchicago.edu/publications/directions/
(Click on March 2007.)

I imagine that the reunion will provide good blog material. In the meantime, I want to call attention to my friend Steve Bergen who is just about to make a job change, one that reflects something I think about all the time. Having taught and headed up huge technology inititives in several independent schools over many years, Steve is moving to the Children's Storefront School in Harlem. Although Storefront is an independent school, too, the students don't pay tuition. It's supported by fundraising. Steve's story reveals the nature of Storefront and his decision to make this change. (http://www.summercore.com/2007/)

When I was teaching in independent schools, I often found myself thinking about how successful many of these schools were and yet how cut off from the larger world of education many of them seemed to be. I don't think it's atypical for people at private schools not to have any relationships with the public schools in the same neighborhood. I know Steve is starting to think about how he might work with charter schools, as we pursues his job at Storefront, and I wonder whether there's even more that can happen. I believe that he's raising big questions about the role of technology in education, especially when thinking about inner city public schools. E.g. what resources should go to technology in such settings -- where there are many competing needs, some of which may be more fundamental (e.g. resources for the teaching of reading, although are there connections between these needs and technology?).

I imagine there are private schools that have relationships with public schools and would love to know about them, if anyone out there has this info... I interviewed Arne Duncan recently (the CEO of the Chicago Public Schools) for Lab Directions. He's an alum of the Lab Schools and very much wants kids in the Chicago public schools to get what he got at Lab, a place that's as much a community center as a school. That's his phrase (community center) for what schools need to be. That reminds me of something I often thought about what kids get in independent schools: I don't have issues with what kids get in those settings; the problem is that all children don't have the same resources and opportunities. It would be great if every child in America had a school like Lab.

Hope someone reads this! Respond!

2 comments:

Sarah Morrow said...

Susan,

Great that you are blogging and then off to your reunion. Andrew and I love reunions! There's such value in stopping to reflect on life then and now. I hope you have a grand time!

I just checked out your friend's writing (and song) about moving to the Storefront School. His change sounds like the change of a lifetime--awesome! His story feels like one of the truly inspiring kind that so many of us think about in moments of social consciousness (between laundry and children and work--when NPR speaks up from the background). Fleeting moments that are usually dismissed in the name of finances, inconvenience, or some other lame feeling of impossibility.

The topic of technology and private/public schools has been in the backs of our minds since we switched to Waldorf--where technology is literally unplugged. We left the public school that had every possible technology resource available to go to a school with none of those things. The classrooms are full of storytelling, coloring with block crayons, shaping forms in bees wax, sounding out times tables with beanbags, walking geometric figures in chalk on the floor--those are some of the tools Abby and Georgia's teachers use to teach. Other schools would use computers and calculators for some of the same lessons.

We were able to veer from convention with the security of giving our children some balance at home. Our three are blessed/cursed with two parents who by professions are strapped to computers and technology. Our girls pick up key-strokes by osmosis even when we shoo them outside to play in the sunshine.

Even so, as a Waldorf parent, I appreciate the importance of strong technology programs in schools--especially for students who don't have the balance at home. (For our own children, we just want the technology to enter the picture a little later.)

I laid out curriculum years ago for an afterschool technology program used throughout the L.A. Public Schools. To see older students comfortable and capable with computers under the lead of inspiring teachers was so hopeful and exciting! Particularly when they didn't have computers and resources in their homes. How brilliant that your friend will carry his enthusiasm and know-how to a school where his teaching will make such a profound difference.

I have to get back to laying out this manuscript on my desk about literacy practices in preschool. I am forever reminded through my work and our personal unconventional school choice, that there are so many ways to look at the same issues in education. And so many perspectives come from the heart.

Sarah

Rachel said...

Susan,

I always thought about (and never did anything about) the private/public school connection. Here were the ideas that I never implemented but have thought might be interesting.

I wanted to set up a type of pen-pal relationship between seventh grade (or any grade) classes with one at a public school. Now I think it might be interesting to do a blog-type discussion where students had an assignment to write a blog once a week and comment on at least two blogs from the corresponding class (when I was teaching it was a slower email process).

This pen-pal relationship could also lead to a shared research/writing project. Each class would be given a topic and a research partner (or larger group) to pursue the research. Students would write individual essays/presentations/whatever but the research would be shared and discussed via blog/email.

Also, book groups and discussions could happen via email/blog.

Obviously, class time would have to be given for such work, as both classes would need access to computers always.

Most of my ideas are virtual connections, as I think finding the time to meet in person can be time-consuming and resource-consuming. The groups wold probably have to meet once a quarter/trimester.

Are there any computer shares out in the world where schools have access to those $100 laptops that are currently being made?

Obviously, my ideas are for a writing/reading program, but I think they could translate into other disciplines as well.

So, these are my early morning musings as I wait for my little cuties to wake up. I'm not anxious for their wake up, mind you, just waiting for it.

I love that you're blogging, Susan. What a great way to share ideas. I look forward to your next post.

Rachel