Tag Archives: Love

Schools Are Amazing Places

“Practice kindness all day to everybody and you will realize you’re already in heaven now.”
Jack Kerouac

School are amazing places. You wanna know why? Because they are filled with kids. And people who love kids and want to give them awe-inspiring experiences. Schools are places where teachers create rock shows and magazine launches. Schools are places where kids can be athletes and scientists. Schools can be places where kids are challenged to question and research and explore and wonder. Schools are places where kids dance and plant trees and hike and run meetings. Schools are places where kids build friendships, identifies and #-D printed design projects. It’s where they write poetry, solve equations and fall in love for teh first time. School is where kids find themselves one year only to lose themselves a few years later. School is where kids find confidence and take risks. It is where they test out their jokes and command a stage for the first time. A school is a place where they can leave the orbit of their parents for a few hours a day and see which other galaxies they might find themselves in. Schools are places where kids skin their knees, break their bones and learn to get back up. It’s the place where kids have to learn to fight back or to resolve conflicts between friends. Schools are where kids learn how to socialise around a meal or how to eat alone. Schools are places where kids shred a guitar solo or forget the lyrics of the third verse. Schools are places where kids roam the halls looking for friends. It’s where they stand up to bullies, learn to talk to adults to demand their rights. Schools teach kids how to be activists, citizens and free-thinkers.

I am here tonight to challenge the narrative that schools are broken. I am tired of constantly starting every conversation about how schools are places in need of drastic change, disruption or re-imagining. Before I continue, I want to acknowledge that I realise that I am blessed to work in a well-resourced school. I work at a top internationals school, where we are wanting for little. I want to be sensitive to people who might be reading this post who work in schools that are structurally damaged and morale vacant buildings. I have worked in such schools and I know it is hard to do your job in such environments. But even in such places, I refuse to continue to start every conversation about school that highlights the conceptual idea of school as a place of deficit. I’ve heard all the complaints. Hell, I have lobbed many of them myself: The curriculum is too intense, too much content, too many skills, too many tests, not student-driven enough, not enough tech, too much tech.

When we spread the narrative that schools are inherently broken we discredit and disrespect the two most important things that make-up schools: Kids and teachers.

I have spent the majority of my life in schools. And for all their faults, I still think they are amazing places. I still remember the rainy day afternoons in Mozambique waiting for the rain to stop so we could carry on because the floor had flooded for lack of windows. The fact that kids didn’t have shoes or books or pencils didn’t bother us none. The fact that I barely knew what I was doing didn’t seem to matter either. We are looking at the lyrics of Africa Unite by Bob Marley as a way to learn English.

All you need to run a school are kids and teachers who love kids and want to create awe-inspiring experiences. You can take all the iPads and 3D printers and everything else and chuck it out the window if you have love in your building.

Tonight I was at Sound Asylum which is or annual MS rock show run by the music department in a constant state of goose-pimpled skin. I watched two hours of talented kids be rock stars. The team had created an opportunity for these kids to stand on stage behind the lights and the smoke and in front of their peers and live out a dream.

It is not fair to kids if their teachers are constantly focused on looking a the problems of their school. We owe them more. Take a look at your school and ask yourself how you can create opportunities born of your love and passion- opportunities for your students to be inspired. If your curriculum has you down, or if you are buried under mandates of which you have no control, find other ways to build a culture of wonder in your school. A poetry reading, a jacket ball league, a hands on science club, a coding club, a rock show, a magazine launch, a place to knit, plant a garden.

We don’t always need to look to new ways to re-build our schools. Let’s change the conversations and focus on the fact that schools are places to help kids become loving, kind, creative educated citizens. You can do it.

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What does love mean in the context of a school?

We had our Moving On Assembly for the grade 8 classes today. I had a very special group this year. I will miss this class something fierce.

Here is the speech I gave. (We all raised plants this year, hence the reference to plants.)There are many variables to consider when helping a seed to grow into a fruitful, viable, living plant.The obvious things are water and sun. But you have to be sure that the soil has nutrients. It can’t be too wet or too dry. You have to place the pot in a place where it gets optimal sun but not too much.Sometimes the pot needs to be rotated. Sometimes the plant must be pruned. Sometimes you just leave it alone for a few days and trust that it will be fine. Other times it needs constant attention.

Raising a collection of different plants in one setting adds even more complexity. Some plants need water everyday, while others prefer drought. Some plants will vine and weave and grab onto anything they can attach to, while others prefer to grow alone in their pot. Some plants will wither with the slightest neglect, and will spring back to life with a little attention, while others will ignore everything you do.

There are many variables to consider when helping a teenager grow into a kind, independent, expressive human being.

The obvious things are food and electronic devices. But you have to be sure that their classrooms are nurturing. They can’t be too hands off or too smothering . You have to place the kids in a place where they get optimal mentoring but not too much.

Sometimes the student needs to be reminded about manners. Sometimes the kid must be reprimanded. Sometimes you just leave them alone for a few days and trust that they will be fine, other times they need more constant attention.

Raising a collection of different kids in one classroom adds even more complexity.

Some students need attention everyday, while others prefer to be left alone. Some kids will make friends and be social and grab onto anyone they can get attached to, while others prefer to grow alone in their skin. Some students will clam up with the slightest neglect, but will spring back to life with a little attention, while others will ignore everything you do.

But one thing I have noticed is that both plants and students need love grow. Love is word we don’t use enough in schools. We love our families and we love music and we love food and we love boys and we love girls and of course we love books, but for some reason it feels a bit strange to say you love your teacher, or for me to say I love my students. Maybe it is because the word love is such a tiny word for such an immense emotion. But I am here to take it back.

What does love mean in the context of a school? I think it means kindness, honesty, respect, taking risks and allowing for vulnerability in order to feel safe. I think love in the classroom means that everyone feels like they belong. Everyone feels heard and attended to. Everyone can be themselves without having to change for others. In short, people enjoy each others’ company and feel happy to be with others. When you love your peers, your teacher or your students you want to see them everyday and their energy and your energy are no longer separated.

I want to share a quick story to help you visualise what this love looks like. Last Friday night, I was with 8JRa and all their parents at our year end class party. We had eaten and the music was loud. Before I knew it, I looked up and saw us all dancing and smiling. Yes, there was a conga line around the room. Kids, parents, teacher.

In my 15 years of teaching, I have never seen anything like what I saw last week at our class party. I have taught my share of kids. I have raised my share of plants. But sometimes, the stars are aligned and a classroom and the teacher and the kids, and let’s not forget about their parents, create a situation so we all love each other. These bonds. These classrooms are special. Don’t take them for granted. They don’t happen very often.

In closing, I want to say goodbye to 8JRA for this year. I hope you will come and visit and stay in touch in the future. I hope you cherish what we built 8JRA. It didn’t happen by accident. Kids, Parents, Teacher- we all did our part. We had a good run. I hope you will look back on this year and think about the things we learned together and that you smile fondly. This class will always have a special place in my heart.

Thank you. I love you.

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