But many other things are just as important: creativity, personal discipline, the ability to relate to other people. I call this "effective intelligence"—all the things that come into play in problem solving. We all see examples of people who have outstanding cognitive skills but who founder because they lack self-insight or have trouble working with others.
And if you talk to employers, they'll tell you they want employees who are able to think, take initiative, get along well with other people, solve problems, be disciplined and responsible. But schools are being influenced by another factor: the demand to produce high test scores. The accountability structures we've created are driving academic activity, driving the way schools are organized.
We have overemphasized the cognitive—we think we can measure it, although I'm not sure we even do that very well! How did you go about providing for students' social and emotional development? First, we immersed ourselves in the schools and tried to understand what was wrong.
Education in the Hands of Communities in Ukraine: What Has Changed So Far?
We realized that the children were bright and able but that the climate wasn't right. We also realized that the teachers wanted to succeed, but they were stuck with a mechanical model of teaching and did not understand what else was necessary. They weren't prepared to respond to students lack of social and emotional skills, which led to students' acting out or withdrawing from classroom activities.
The teachers' response was to try to control the behavior, to "get the badness out of the children. Parents ended up withdrawing from the school or attacking it. So children, parents, and teachers all wanted to succeed, but all behaved in ways that kept them from being successful.
Creating schools as learning communities: obstacles and processes
Next, we built a structure that enabled parents, educators, and other specialists to develop a comprehensive school plan together. The plan had both a social-emotional and an academic component. As we created a good social climate in the school, we then were able to integrate academic learning and social emotional development.
Even at the early stages, did parents really have an authentic voice in making decisions? This was way before the heyday of school-based management. Our School Development Program contained the essential elements of school-based management. Parents served on the governance and management team, and they had their own parent team. The parents helped design a program to support the academic and social program that the school planning and management team came up with.
The parents and the teachers worked together on those activities. We started out with things like Welcome Back to School pot luck suppers and so on. We didn't do them just because they were nice to do, however. We wanted to establish relationships among the adults, to create authority figures for the children to identify with and become attached to. Our idea was to bring all the adults together to support children's growth along the developmental pathways —the social interactive how to interact well with other people , the psycho-emotional how to control your emotions or handle your impulsivity , the moral-ethical, the linguistic, the intellectual-cognitive, and the physical.
It is growth along all those pathways that facilitates intellectual academic growth.
Originally, one of your primary teams was called the Mental Health Team. That wasn't designed to "treat" students with emotional problems, though, was it? To avoid confusion, we now call it the School Support Team. The initial idea was that a Mental Health Team would help children with specific problems. But we found that those problems often grew out of conditions in the school that weren't child-friendly.
We learned what we had to do to change the school. The Mental Health Team often took the leadership. For example, we found that children who transferred into the school were often dumped there without adequate support. What happened? Often, they would act up. One boy kicked the teacher and ran out of the classroom. When the Mental Health Team discussed that with the staff, we all learned together about what support children need during difficult transition periods when they are removed from a supportive environment and put into a new one that is threatening.
Then we designed ways to support transfer students when they come into the school. Although we would help children with a particular problem, we made sure to look more closely at what the school was doing. In the traditional way, the child who kicked the teacher might be sent to the principal's office, be punished, and return to the classroom.
When he got there, the other kids would laugh, a fight would start, and this would go round and round until the child was labeled "disturbed. Can you talk a bit about the curriculum in those early schools, and then in today's schools?
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How did you develop it and how is it distinctive? It's a curriculum for all kids; it just happens that we were working primarily in the cities when we created it. We involved parents in developing the curriculum by asking them what they wanted for their children as adults. We found that they wanted the same things that middle-class parents wanted—good jobs, families, responsible citizenship.
We then asked them what kinds of activities would help their children develop the capacity to achieve those things. As we talked about it, our discussion converged on the areas of politics and government, business and economics, health and nutrition, and spiritual and leisure-time skills.
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So we developed units in those areas that integrated the teaching of basic academics with social interaction skills and appreciation of the arts. They provide great examples of place-based education, schooling that is not focused on test prep. Educators, parents and others should use this film to launch their own discussions and rethinking about what schools can be and do.
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This is a fantastic introduction — the best I've ever experienced — to existing and potential links between schools and communities. The cultural and geographical diversity of communities profiled, along with their unique challenges, creates an expansive range of ideas for others to consider. The film creates a very compelling portrait of what education could be in America and demonstrates through many examples how much energetic potential can be tapped at this intersection between schools and communities.
It should be seen by as many educators and community leaders as possible. Schools That Change Communities offers authentic examples of how children can be raised in a society that takes its democratic participation seriously. This film pushes us to think that it is possible to fulfill the promise of America as a place where we can address our own issues, and it does it beautifully showing children actively engaged in real life education in genuine community contexts.
I found the stories of children, teachers, schools and communities to be quite moving. The students found a sense of agency and relied upon all the disciplines to engage in meaningful ways with the places in which they live. Thanks for doing such an inspiring piece. A helpful, illustrative exploration of the power of experiential learning and of fostering links between schools and the communities they serv e.
This inspirational documentary demonstrates the power of young people, from nursery to high school age, to bring new life to their communities, to transform their world and themselves. She tells me that if I read and practice school work outside of school, I will get better at it, especially math. My favorite thing last year was when we went on a field trip to Carolina Beach State Park and went into the forest and saw Venus Fly Traps, because we were learning about them in school!
She is a hard worker and is a great example to her peers of how to be resilient and determined to succeed. Brianna lives with her mom, dad, 3 brothers and sister, Jade, who is a 4th grader also at Snipes. Her favorite subject at school is Science!