Utopia: an imagined place in which all is perfect.
Education is rarely viewed as a utopia. With declining national test scores, the loss of teacher bargaining rights, and expanding classroom sizes, there are many fundamental changes that need to be made in how we educate the future generations. Brilliant minds invest time, money, and power into overhauling the system in a holistic way that emphasizes 21st century skills and changing demographics. Young teachers exiting graduate schools are empowered to inspire change even though the path to it feels treacherous and often takes time away from teaching to the many required state tests. Regardless of the hoops that complicate our education system, when a teacher is in the classroom and working with the students magic can happen.
My school is an “edutopia.” Yes, there are plenty of ways that it could function better and plenty of ways that we are actively seeking to improve what we do well. Perhaps what makes me feel like it is an edutopia is that teachers and teaching within the walls is constantly evolving and focusing on best practices and professional development. This leads to a higher level of not only commitment from my peers but also positive appreciation for the school as a whole. I could not imagine teaching somewhere else. I find each day (even the difficult ones) to be rewarding.
This past week was a reminder of this. Some highlights from a solid week in edutopia-land:
- Students in my freshman study hall brought their jazz instruments to play for their peers and it turned into a jam session with students giving feedback, playing music, and overall “digging” each other and the performers. The encouragement was contagious
- The GSA did trivia in front of the whole school and reflected on the profound changes being made in the LGBTQ community. Seeing them up there, supported by their peers, and proud of their position was heart-warming. This was a great start to a term that will include the planning and execution of the second annual GSA summit.
- We Skyped with Syrian students living in a Lebanon Boarding School. This past week, my freshman class was able to talk with students their age in Lebanon about the crisis affecting Syria and how it has changed the lives of these young women and men. The Syrian students discussed the violence, the politics, and their personal experiences. We got a small glimpse into the conflict itself and were witness to the tensions within the small group of Syrian students as they differed in their opinion on how the “crisis should be handled.” It was a difficult discussion in which the Syrian students talked about losing friends and family to the conflict, losing their nation to violence, and losing their sense of right and wrong as a result of propaganda on both sides of the conflict. It was a profound exchange that made the headlines into a reality and put a face on the conflict not only for myself but for my students as well.
Monday mornings can be hard to face, especially when it is rainy outside like today, but heading into edutopia makes the early alarm clock worthwhile.
Walden pond, a “real” Utopia nearby.