Monday, 4 February 2008

An end to passivity

Most of today has been taken up with a discussion about our school. It started off at our circle meeting - which is becoming quite big circle, when Johnnie - one of the older kids asked if he would be sitting his Highers in May. It was a strange request - none of us have really given this any thought as we have been too busy focussing on the welfare of the kids and ourselves. Yet even the younger ones started to ask about the various subjects they had been taking and wanted to take in the future.

This led us into a long discussion about the need for qualifications. It was Johnnie himself who asked, "I needed four "Bs" to get into university - but do I still need them? Will there be universities? Will there be enough of us to go to university?" Everyone - even some of the youngest - wanted to chip in. It was on the verge of breaking down when I suggested we take this to our families and consider three questions:

1. How do we deliver subjects without teachers?

2. What will learners need to know and be able to do by the time they leave school?

3. Will we need qualifications if there are so few of us? - and if we do are they the same qualifications that we have always had?

As has become the routine one family was given responsibility for making lunch while the others went off to consider the questions. We gathered together in the afternoon and each family took it in turn to respond.

As we had guessed a lot of the groups went for using the internet to deliver subjects - with the kids being able to access learning at home as much as at school. They wanted their Family leader to take an interest in their learning and to guide them but they also wanted people to buddy up with a partner from another group for specific subjects. The big theme which emerged was the use of "experts" who weren't necessarily teachers but who tracked their progress or could give specific guidance on a subject of they got stuck. They also liked the idea of being able to use the skills thy've developed usaing Bebo etc to share their knowledge about learning - I was surprised (I know I shouldn't have been) that they were able to differentiate that they used Bebo for one reason but that they could switch - if necessary - to using it in quite a differerent format.

They were also insistent that they could teach each other - if they were helped by us to become teachers. They wanted to "pass on knowledge" - "just like a relay race" said Johnnie - who is rapidly becoming one of the stars of the school.

In response to the second question they thought there would still be a need for qualifications - "We need to know what people can do" but the qualifications they wanted were ones that would be recognised around the world. They had been corresponding with their peers from many coutries over the last few weeks and they now saw themselves to be part of much wider community than their city or their country - this awareness had quite passed me by in the maelstrom that had been my life.

They wanted access to a range of qualifications and courses - some of which might be Scottish but might just as easily come from India, Brazil or Australia. They wanted to pick what they did from a menu - and they wanted to choose the menu. One of the girls - Becky - launched into a full scale attack on the "menu" we had offered in our schools before. "So narrow!!" "So small minded!!" - we adults were almost enbarassed to admit our complicity in the system.

Our homework - and I stress our homework will be to come up with some suggestions and possible things that peple can do - regardless of age. There was also a strong feeling that we could set up our own courses or at least form partnerships with other schools who had started to set up in the city along similar lines.

The final point to emerge from our discussion was that they wanted school to be so much more than courses or subjects - there doesn't appear to be any going back on that now. They want to learn how to do things - to fix things - to make things -to work out how things work for themselves. They are living in chaos and they want to make it better - they will never be passive ever again!

1 comment:

KathyinFL said...

My pardon for being away so long. Life just keeps on happening over here (US) as well.

I'm not surprised that your students are becoming "unfrozen." They are working through their issues and now have energy to spare because they are on a "mission" so to speak.

I admire the way to redirected that energy before it could become a potentially destructive force. I think that was a very important and precedent setting event. This is one of the main reasons that committees get formed, to try and harness that type of energy. The trick will be to keep the momentum and not let the whole process bog down.