- Jefferson School District 14J
- A Superintendent's Journey
Schools are Gardens not FactoriesPosted by Brad Capener on 3/30/2020
Embracing Supplemental Enrichment Education during the COVID-19 Pandemic
“.... schools are much more like gardens than they are like factories. And great gardens aren’t the result of modernist design or entrepreneurial innovation. They are products of attention, devotion, and love. They are complex systems that demand our time and respond to our care. And in a thousand different blooms, they reward us with their beauty.” Valerie Straus
As we enter into uncharted territory with schools closing until April 28 (unless the Governor extends the date), it is natural for parents and teachers to feel a sense of lost time and opportunity; of lost instruction equating to a loss of achievement and learning; and, just as important, teachers may feel a loss of connection to their students - the daily interaction and the purpose that serves. Teachers teach because they crave working daily with children. It's also natural for students to feel anxiety and a sense of loss for their schooling and daily interactions with friends and with teachers. School provides safety, routine, support, and so much more.
While all of these feelings are very valid and understandable, I want you to know that it’s going to be okay. We’re going to make it through this time and we’re going to be stronger for it!
During this time, I would like you to dream big and think about creating that incredible unit you’ve always wanted to do but never had the time. I want you to shoot for the stars and make this time into an incredible opportunity for your students to explore and grow in new ways.
Am I concerned about a loss of achievement?
I was at first. Not so much now….
I guess I’m not overly concerned because schools, to my way of thinking, resemble gardens not factories. We are not creating widgets after all, but growing human beings to reach their full potential - future contributors, leaders and citizens of this country. They represent our future prosperity and the continuation of our great Democracy. Will a month or two of lost traditional school alter their success or forever change the direction of their journey? No, I don’t believe so.
After all, as a school district, we are striving to deliver the process rather than a product of learning. For example, applying the scientific method is a process of learning. Being asked to solve problems, whether in math class, health class, history class, AVID tutorial, or socially on the playground - reflects a similar thinking process used by adults every day in their work and in parenting. We are asking our students to think and read critically - to not just believe what they hear, but to research and form their own opinions; and once formed, to express those opinions in writing, in debate, in respectful dialogue, etc. We want our students to respect themselves and see their own worth and how special each of them is to our world. This is NOT widget making. This is planting, growing, weeding, nurturing, and otherwise tending to the growth.
While grades and standards and tests are important markers to check that students are learning and achieving, our real focus needs to remain on the process of learning. After all, the process is about capturing the imagination. The process engages the learner and instills curiosity. The process produces healthy socialization. The process produces creativity and ingenuity - two key American qualities that set us apart from other countries, and that has produced the personal computer, sent men to the moon and women to space stations, etc.
Given that education is about process, what can that mean for our children sitting at home, no longer allowed to attend school in a traditional sense due to a pandemic? While the COVID-19 pandemic brings unique challenges and fears about losing ground academically, let me offer that enrichment is in fact, an opportunity.
Enrichment is an opportunity for your student to explore their natural interests, and they can continue to focus on the process of learning while at home. Additionally, you as their teachers will be reaching out with supplemental enrichment ideas in a variety of rich subject matters. You will be contacting your students and checking in, providing ideas and opportunities to learn. To extend the metaphor, we have transplanted the garden, but we continue to prune, to encourage, to offer opportunity for growth and enrichment.
In summation, while the loss of structured instructional time is unfortunate, much of the year’s instruction has been delivered, and this period of time can be focused on promoting and enhancing the process of learning (reading for pleasure; critically reading and having opinions; solving problems; being creative, music appreciation, science experiments they can do at home, etc.). We can encourage them to follow their interests!
We are growing little human beings, and we can continue to grow them at home as well as at school! I want you all to take care of yourselves and to know that we are here to support you. You are amazing professionals and I am excited to see and learn about all the great supplemental ideas you’re going to create! I have attached two articles. One, I sent it to parents and talks about the difference between homeschooling and crisis schooling. The other hits a similar theme about school as gardens. Thank you!
WelcomePosted by Chris Shaw on 2/10/2020
This is the new blog for the Superintendent.