Tuesday, June 7, 2016

A Superintendent Writes... Schools are Built for Adults - Part 1

In response to the 5/18/2016 and 5/20/2016 posts, “Schools are Built for Adults – Case 1,” and “Schools are Built for Adults – Case 2,” an old school LYS Superintendent writes:


You are absolutely right – schools are built for adults. My question: What would a school look like that was built for students?

This requires reimagining and reinventing schools, not simply revising and “repairing” them. I would suggest that such a school would be student-centered with real student input into the core curriculum and electives. It would involve real-world investigations into real world problems and coming up with relevant, meaningful, real world solutions. It might even have true facilitators instead of teachers, learning studios instead of classrooms, a flexible schedule with no bells, comfortable and movable furniture instead of student desks and chairs. Students would do what we all do: set goals, keep a “to do” list and calendar, meet with advisors/facilitators, evaluate progress and move forward. They would learn to work collaboratively, be creative, participate in problem-solving, and think critically. They would research, analyze, theorize and then present their findings.

So what’s the New Fundamental 5 in a school that doesn’t have classrooms or teachers or bell schedules and where students drive the learning process and direction?

And you must come see our newest campus. Our latest attempt to create the school I described. Let me know the next time you are in town and I would love to give you a tour and discuss the future!

SC Response
Great to hear from you!

And a fantastic question!!!  With no right answer.  It would be very easy to argue that any school built by adults can only approximately meet student needs, because our experiences and expectations drive all of our actions, no matter how saintly we claim to be.

My rubric for creating the real student-centered school is driven by Dr. Jim Davis’ definition of school culture and climate (which in my opinion, is darn near pure genius). School Culture is the things we do and the structure we do them in.  School Climate is the positive and negative effect that our school culture has on students.  Which means that if we truly want to manage school culture and climate (which extended out, over time, means building actual student centered schools), we must constantly examine everything.  The things that have a negative impact on students, we quit doing… No matter adult opinion and/or benefit.  The things that have a positive impact on students, we do more of… No matter adult opinion and/or benefit.

I have yet to see this happen, but I have seen a handful of educational leaders who pursue this in a disciplined, rigorous (though imperfect) fashion.  It’s a short list, on which you are included.

As for the new Fundamental 5 for the student centric school, there isn’t one.  The Fundamental 5 represents the fundamentals for facilitating, accelerating and deepening learning.

1. Framing the Lesson works regardless of setting and student direction.  The teacher/coach still has a role in providing focus and ensuring closure.  If only to increase retention.

2. The Power Zone works regardless of setting. 

3. Recognition and Reinforcement is what keeps the under-motivated engaged and the over-motivated from burning themselves out.

4 & 5. The last two, Purposeful Talk and Critical Writing are the absolute best vehicles (both in efficiency and effectiveness) for ensuring that connection, meaning, extension, and deep thinking occurs.

The Fundamental 5 in a career/tech setting... Works.  The Fundamental 5 in a STEM setting... Works. The Fundamental 5 in a liberal arts setting... Works.  The Fundamental 5 in a discipline / clinical setting... Works.

In the school you describe, there should be an over-emphasis on Recognition & Reinforcement, Small Group Purposeful Talk, and Critical Writing.  But Lesson Framing and the Power Zone would still remain in play.  Regardless of how much student control there is of the learning, as educators, we still have a role in making sure that the learning has focus and meaning

See you soon.

Think. Work. Achieve.
Your turn...
  • Call Jo at (832) 477-LEAD to order your campus set of “The Fundamental 5: The Formula for Quality Instruction.” Individual copies available on Amazon.com!  http://tinyurl.com/Fundamental5 
  • Now at the Apple App Store: Fun 5 Timer (Fundamental 5 Delivery Tool); PowerWalks CLC (Networked Formative Observation Tool) 
  • Upcoming Presentations: Texas Association of Secondary School Principals Conference (Multiple Presentations); Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association Conference (Multiple Presentations); LYS / TASSP Advanced Leadership Academy (Keynote) 
  • Follow Sean Cain and LYS on www.Twitter.com/LYSNation  and like Lead Your School on Facebook

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