Thomas Friedman’s March 30 column was built around a conversation about education with Harvard’s Tony Wagner. In it, Wagner repeats the coda he discussed in his Ted Talk. Quoted in the column, Wagner says,
Reimagining schools for the 21st-century must be our highest priority. We need to focus more on teaching the skill and will to learn and to make a difference and bring the three most powerful ingredients of intrinsic motivation into the classroom: play, passion and purpose.
Visiting the Magnolia classroom this week, I was struck by the visibility of those three ingredients. When I arrived, Kerry was just finishing sharing a picture book with the class of 6-8 year-olds. She asked them about the connections they were making in the reading. Several students shared, culminating with S.
I noticed that every time there is a story that your read at Story Workshop, it makes me want to write a new story.
Kerry then negotiated with each of these children how they intended to pursue their stories. I heard her asking these young authors about what materials they would be using and why they thought that would be the best site to uncover their stories. She challenged them to think about their previous efforts and to determine their best steps in moving forward. Other students jumped into those negotiations, offering helpful suggestions – thoughts about what might help their classmates/fellow authors move forward.
Then, I watched each artist/author interact with the materials. Students painted, collaged, drew, built – all with an aim toward creating and capturing stories. The amount of writing was more than what we generally expect of groups of almost 30 children in a classroom – and maybe even more unexpected, the amount of joy that seemed utterly natural.
Passion. Purpose. Play… Possibility. For both adults and children.
There is so much to like about Tony Wagner’s ideas about education, and it’s clear that Opal School provides a good foundation in the sort of “skill and will” that children need to succeed. I’m curious how you measure this success through standard tests, even “high-quality” ones. I wish the middle schools and high schools available to us did a better job of furthering this skills-based, rather than knowledge-based, education.