Schools are about the promise of living. They are not about organizational structures, power, procedures or management. They are about living, fully and completely, with the heart as well as the head, physically as well as intellectually, and intuitively as well as well as logically.
Schools are about relationships and interactions that form the nucleus around which learning and growth occur. Children are not “customers” who have a fleeting connection with school based on mercenary motives like profit or ego. Children do not become educated without the energy created from a deep connection with teachers, peers and others.
Yet discussions about schools give you a different message. We view schools as impersonal, metrically driven organizations. We are reengineering, restructuring or reprogramming schools as if children are not a part of them. We talk of power, authority and participation, from top-down to bottom-up to both-ends-toward-the-middle. We agonize over the distribution of power and control.
We are stuck in procedures and regulations and trapped in redesigning structures and policy. Schools have become enamored with systems, focused on management, and bloated with jargon. They have become cold, impersonal and competitive places concerned with test scores at a time when children need warm, caring and nurturing environments. We have forgotten the nature of childhood complete with its joys and travails.
Instead, we should be giving thanks for our children. They all come to school with hope and love. They are full of anticipation and joy about learning. The curiosity and magic of a kindergarten classroom is testament to the natural excitement and energy children bring to school. It’s natural, it’s innocent and it’s genuine. Schools should celebrate the unique destiny and creativity each child brings to this world not test-driven metrics.
Schools ought to be places where people have their heads in the clouds. Ideals drive schools, not procedures or regulations. Ideals are hard to reach because they float high beyond our fingertips, but always offering the allure of greatness. The pragmatists, on the other hand, wring idealism and serendipity out of schools. They want instantaneous measurable results.
Schools are not about trivial, pragmatic outcomes: they must pursue profound and noble goals. They are serious places of learning with excitement and creativity and the successes and failures that come with striving. Great teachers fuse poetry with purpose and imagination with reality. To get imaginative schools, we need to change how we perceive them.
The best metaphor for school is the concept of a sanctuary. Children need schools that offer them the sanctity to be themselves, to learn and grow, and to take risks so they can garner the experience of life without paying devastating prices. In these “sanctuaries” human genius in all it forms is honored, and the efforts of children who persevere with intensity, drive, and integrity of purpose are applauded.