Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Let's Not Forget Summerhill

Yesterday in my Schools and Society class the students presented their readings of four chapters in the section of the book titled What Makes a Good School. Each chapter described a school that worked, from an inner city school in New York, Central Park East to A.S. Neill's school, Summerhill, in England that he started in 1921.

Interestingly, these schools, and many like them are still labeled progressive even though, like Summerhill, they have existed successfully for 80 or more years. The existence of such schools serves to remind us that there are different ways of looking at the ways young children should be educated and the ways individuals learn best. This ideas of exploring alternatives is something that is woven into many of the education courses at St. Mike's where prospective teachers are challenged to think reflectively about what they really believe the teaching profession is all about. There are frequently lively discussions about the value and purpose of standardized testing and the radical idea that, given choices, young children will usually make the right one.

Two themes came out of the four chapters that we read and discussed; teachers must be passionate about something and teachers must care. For example, teachers must be passionate about what they teach and they must care about their students. A teacher's passion for learning or for history or Spanish literature can inspire students, while teachers who show they care help students develop positive feelings about themselves and their surroundings. To have both passion and caring is what makes a great teacher.

We may not be able to turn all our schools into replicas of Summerhill but we can take what matters from schools like these and incorporate it into what we believe teaching is all about..

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