sábado, 24 de octubre de 2015

Back to the future: schools

Now I work in a school as a teacher (justifications will come later in an already-started-post).
I have been wondering what 
is a school. The school that I work in claims to be special, democratic and based on a "learning by doing" methodology. 

Some weeks ago, because of the international teacher´s day, a question was raised to the children in the school: "If I were a teacher..." The children answers were exposed on the walls for parents to see it and to commemorate the day. Answers were interesting, and one of them stuck to my mind. The answer was "If I were a teacher..." "... I will let children learn 100+100".
"Let children learn", not teach, something that match perfectly with my concept of educating, as I have said in many occasions: "I do not teach, I encourage the learning".

"School" the word (because #wordsmatter) has a history in itself (like every word). It has its origin in the old Greece 
σχολή (scholē), meaning "leisure" but also "a place for lectures". So, that implies that hearing or giving a lecture was fun... (it may be). The Latin (always so... latin!) try to put it together and define a schola as "an intermission of work, leisure for learning..."  (still fun) but added "place of instruction, (...) disciples of a teacher" ... instruction? disciples?, all of a sudden the verticality and hierarchy appears... Then history continues and the old English make it easier and simplify the definition "school: "place of instruction.".

I guess religion and superiority complex, together with some greediness and all this things that history of the human are full of, somehow raped the concept of "schooling" and made it, exactly that:  a "place of instruction". 

Last week, I went to some conferences under the title "Learning Spaces for Inclusion and Social Justice". This concept "learning spaces" opens the door to the education that I believe in and the one which, I think, children would enjoy and learn from. The concept is nearer to the scholē that the Greeks defined, and why not, maybe the one we should go back to.
Shouldn´t we, maybe, change the names of "schools" for this one "learning spaces"? Within this concept there are two words: 
  • "Learning" an action being played (-ing) of "getting knowledge, being cultivated, studying, reading, thinking about" (form the old English leornian). 
  • "Spaces" as some pedagogues call it: "the third teacher". The use of the space as an educational tool, bring us the opportunity of letting children discover by themselves what they want to learn, while educating in democracy by making them part of the space and the space part of them. The space is flexible and adjustable to the children that makes the classroom and the knowledge they want to get.
A couple of weeks ago I went to the national assembly about reading in Iceland. At the end of the assembly, someone asked to the final panel :"what is to read?" (read -> lectura -> lecture). There were different answers, from a "remarkable" representative of the Minister of Education in Iceland who started the answer with "200 words per minute" to writers who focuses on the fun and pleasure of reading. None of them said the word "information" and nowadays, don´t we read the most to get information?. Every time we open our computer, telephone, etc., are we not reading information that we find interesting? about other people´s life, the news, about a topic we want to know more, searching for ideas, etc. Isn´t it to read an independent way of getting the knowledge we want to get?.

Within my field, Social Education, we plan the education process (educational project) with the person/s who owns the process (the one who is learning). Why is it not like that in the formal education system? Why in the year 2015, the future, are we still planning for the children what they need to learn? Is it maybe that the system do not trust in the children´s decisions? Is it maybe that teachers do not know how to create doubts, questions? 
wouldn't it be better to give the tools (reading) in the early ages (when they are actually willing to learn it) and trust our children to create, design, and learn by themselves?

Maybe, as some answer in here, "this is too much work" for those who educate... but wouldn't it be worth the try? Shouldn´t we go back to future and reinvent the scholē as a learning space?

* In this presentation I did for a very nice place of lectures are some of these ideas: http://www.slideshare.net/Ele-na/crosscutting-objectives