Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Smoking in the Principal's Office!

President Reagan was in office when I moved to Vermont and supervised my first student teacher at Williston Central School. That was 30 years ago in 1982. The amazing Marion Stroud was principal at the time and I can remember sitting in her office chatting and smoking cigarettes; I kid you not.  I listened to her dreams of a new Williston school building with Kivas and "houses", ala Harry Potter's Hogwarts, and a real theatre and an Olympic size swimming pool. Such was her dynamic nature that within just a few years she had accomplished everything except the swimming pool.

Marion was a rare visionary in a world now dominated  by the bottom line and adherence to rigid standards. She had worked for some time at the Bankstreet school in NYC and brought with her to Williston three critical elements of education which were to form the foundation of a remarkable school; experiential learning, interdisciplinary learning and collaboration.She forged the school into "houses" of grade groups 1 - 4 and 5 - 8 where teachers worked together across grades and students learned in communities designed to promote real learning and not just give them an education.

I found Marion to be a kindred spirit for she too was British and a proponent in the US of the British Open Education movement upon which the Bankstreet school was based. I watched the school go from strength to strength as teachers bought in to her belief that a caring, collaborative and conscientious environment was the most conducive to the all around growth and development of every student and every teacher. The school became a leader in the application of technology in the field of education and was actively supported by Seymour Pappert, one of the great educators of the last century.

Thankfully, the school still retains much of Marion's vision through the dedicated work of many of the teachers who still inspire children through their enduring beliefs in experiential, interdisciplinary and collaborative learning.

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