Posted by TNCS on Sep 21, 2018
This summer, the TNCS faculty read Grant Lichtman’s book Moving the Rock. In August, he Zoomed in for a conversation on the first day of faculty orientation.
Imagine Sisyphus persistently trying to maneuver his rock up the hill… For author and educator, Grant Lichtman, this image is a metaphor for today’s system of K-12 education. Despite the forces and pace of enormous change in the rest of the world, the school rock is so embedded that it has barely budged from its position in over 100 years. Even so, Lichtman is optimistic when describing his vision and examples of schools designed to help students learn to navigate a future he characterizes as being increasingly, “volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous.” He makes a convincing case that if school is to remain relevant, it is not only possible but imperative to transform it from a system designed to educate for the needs of the past, to one that prepares our children for the challenges of tomorrow.
But, the school rock is proving difficult to move even with knowledge about the skills and attributes needed to thrive in this future and the determined efforts of concerned and capable people to push it forward. Nevertheless, the conversation has evolved; it is no longer about whether we should change but more about the actions needed to educate for “deeper learning” and to become an organization that makes evident what we know (so far) about how people learn. Although this knowledge should be driving more fundamental changes in the what (structures and curricula) and the how (processes and pedagogy) of school, it isn’t so far – at least at the scale needed. Still, we are reminded that small forces (think TNCS) are capable of moving large masses by means of a lever and a carefully placed fulcrum, and Lichtman encourages us to pick one, or all seven of them, and press hard. Ultimately, the levers we press, the questions we ask, and the problems we solve will create enough momentum to get and keep the school rock rolling.
This year, a lever in the form of a question was written into the strategic plan: How does The New Community School design a comprehensive program that prepares our students for their future? It’s a powerful one, and Lichtman encourages us to be “bold” and “audacious” in our collective inquiry and response. Although these words are not typically associated with teachers or school, TNCS has always been student-centered and has intentionally developed its programs informed by how students with dyslexia and learning differences learn. We are again empowered to be bold: creative in our thinking and innovative in our design for learning. And in a loud response to Lichtman’s call, “Let’s roll,” we, like dedicated Sisyphus, continue to move the rock.
Visit Grant Lichtman’s website to learn more about his book Moving the Rock.
by Robin Forsyth, TNCS Language Fundamentals Teacher