Fast Company Article - April 2000 : LUSENET : M.Ed./International Falls : One Thread

"Schools That Think"

By Sara Terry

Fast Company, April 2000

pages 304-320

Summary and Reflection by Jill Katrin

April 3, 2000

In this article, Sara Terry discusses the importance of school change to keep up with the changes in todays workforce. The significance of incorporating the social dimensions of learning along with the academics is noted throughout the article. Four different schools and their approach to learning are reviewed by Terry. The four schools are: The Greenfield Center School, The Service School, Rocky Mountain School of Expeditionary Learning, and North Jackson Elementary School. "Each is a different school with a different approach, but all have similar instincts for encouraging creativity, individuality, responsibility, and performance in its students," states Terry. A brief description of each school will be given in this summary.

The Greenfield Center School in Greenfield, Massachusetts focuses daily learning around the program titled, "The Responsive Classroom." This school consists of approximately 147 students in grades kindergarten through eight. Students are taught the importance of getting along with one another through cooperative group work and morning meetings. This program teaches social skills to its students. "Classroom learning at the Greenfield Center School, though rooted in academics, takes as its distinctive mission the nurturing of social skills like cooperation, standing up for whats right, responsibility, empathy, and self-control," states Terry. This school and its Responsive Classroom model has impacted schools nationally. Educators are attending workshops to learn about this model. Students are taught the importance of creative thinking and problem-solving in this model.

The Service School is in Stockton, California. It has approximately 350 students in grades kindergarten through five. This charter school was made possible because of a group of concerned parents. The school takes into consideration what the parents feel is important for their children to learn. This school recruits the best teachers it can find. Teachers raises in pay are based on merit. "Good teachers are the key to everything," says Elise Darwish. Teachers are encouraged to plan thematic units together, and help develop their own curriculum.

The Rocky Mountain School of Expeditionary Learning is in Denver, Colorado. It consists of approximately 315 students in grades kindergarten through twelve. Students from four local school districts are selected by lottery for this school. Students at this school are engaged in learning everything about a particular subject for months at a time. Students achievement is measured through their portfolios. Each portfolio has a different set of requirements that the student must meet. Students thinking is measured by how they perform. As a result, students are learning how to be self-directed with their learning.

North Jackson Elementary School is in Jackson, Mississippi. It consists of approximately 500 students in grades kindergarten through five. This school changed from a traditional setting of high orderly structure to an environment of thematic teaching and cooperative learning. These changes came about due to principal leadership in the school. This principal educated her staff about current brain research, creative instruction using themes, and cooperative learning groups. Students at this school remained with the same teacher and peers for a period of two years to foster student stability and continuity.

I was immediately drawn to this article because of the title, "Schools That Think." As I skimmed over this article I recognized the title, "The Responsive Classroom." This increased my desire to further delve into this article. This past summer, I attended a five day inservice on "The Responsive Classroom" program. It was one of the best inservices I have ever attended. I am currently using many of its key components in my classroom. We begin our day with a morning meeting. Students greet each other, share, read daily news and announcements on the classroom chart, and play games during this time. This time sets a positive tone for learning for the rest of the day. Teaching social skills can easily be achieved with this program. My students are learning to respect each other and appreciate the strengths that each individual brings to our classroom. This program has helped address behavior issues in the classroom as well as on the playground. Opportunities to try knew approaches to learning energizes my teaching ability in the classroom. As stated by Principal Pully of North Jackson Elementary School, "You have to change the way you think. You have to think outside the box. You cant sit there and wait for somebody else to do something for you." In summary, social learning supports academic learning. The Responsive Classroom model is helping me foster social skills in a fun, challenging, safe environment. I am looking forward to incorporating more components of this program into my classroom next year.

-- Anonymous, April 03, 2000

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