Authenticity

A word that often comes up when we are talking education is ‘authenticity’. With the circumstances of today’s world; the breakneck pace of our technological advances, the realities of resource depletion and environmental degradation, and the difficult questions of sustainability to name just a few, we are firm believers in the need to make our children’s education authentic. We want them to be engaged with our world now and to have a big picture awareness of how our human systems affect our natural systems and how we rely on the health of the environment.

Green School was founded with a commitment to a model of education that connects our students to their communities, while empowering them to be a part of moving our natural and human systems toward sustainability. We intend to have our students be drivers of their learning and use the value of reflection to illuminate their learning journeys.

With that in mind, we recently took a hard look at our reporting system in middle school and came to the conclusion that we needed more timely feedback that included the student’s perspective on their learning.

After introducing this new model recently, we asked for parent feedback to get a feel of what worked for them and what else we might want to consider. One parent shared the following observation from her father (our student’s grandfather).

The letter does a brilliant job of illuminating the questions that many, who are only familiar with a traditional model of education have about the intentions of more progressive models of education. It also does a great job of identifying some of the potential pitfalls of progressive models.

That is the strangest report card I have ever seen. No grading that I can tell. Certainly a non-traditional school system. I was interested in seeing written communication stressed and that geometry is part of the course load. Seems to me what is most stressed are positive social interaction, leadership skills, and world awareness. 

I/we were measured by the number of little facts we could memorize and regurgitate. This school seems to stress big picture awareness and then how to apply that to thematic issues. A concern is how this seeming lack of a grade structure will mesh with a more traditional system when it comes time to go elsewhere, say on to college. Another concern would be if broad picture concepts and awareness of same are what is always stressed, who will take care of the details? Somebody has to turn the screwdriver even though he might not be able to conceptualize the final product being built. Any system needs only a few leaders and a ton of worker bees. 

I have to say that they, the teachers, all seem to be molding the kids to a awareness on a global scale as opposed to the national or regional or, smaller, the parochial scale that “traditional” teaching lends itself to. I see none of the competitive nature of traditional ABCD grading, either among the students or within oneself. The “am I better than you” or “am I better than I was” sort of stimulus that pervades traditional structures. Good? Bad? Of no consequence? Time will tell, I guess.

Me, I’d have loved this sort of schooling. Will it prepare him for his next academic steps? My guess is probably. Most of what we learn, other than the ability and,hopefully, the desire to learn, in grade school is meaningless. By that I mean that no matter what one is required to regurgitate the details are of no later consequence beyond reading, math, and communicative skills. I memorized, once, a semester’s worth of geological terms, none of which I have ever had occasion to use beyond the final exam except to try to impress somebody at a cocktail party. Sure, I am broadly educated, and my whole university experience served as a key to the door of the pilot career field. I am the most broadly educated pilot I know. Did it make me a better pilot? No! Just a better spoken or written one. Did any of it keep my alive in combat? No again. 

So, of what use is primary and secondary education? Beyond basic math, reading ability, communicative skills ( the art of forming thought and transmitting same to others), I guess I’d have to say working as a team member and honing leadership skills may be all one needs to take away. Maybe, just maybe, they, the Green School, are on the right track. 

Very thought provoking, that report card. Thank you.

Love, Dad

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