Thursday, August 20, 2009

The other "climate change"

You can't fool the kids. The next big shift for the educational system is emotional climate change in schools.

The psychological weather in children's schools and classrooms needs to move from an atmosphere of competition to an atmosphere of collaboration. Have we forgotten that kids pick up on the emotional climate between adults? Mitchell Landsberg in "Birmingham High Goes Charter" writes that students, when asked by their victorious principal on the first day of their school re-opening as an independent charter school, "are you guys excited?", responded with "No!". A clue to their seemingly ungrateful and oblivious behaviour lies, I think, in the school climate adults created during the transition: Mr. Landsberg reports adults saying things like, "offended by accusations", "it hurts", "losing my best friends, and I would feel uncomfortable talking to them now", and "[what drove me out was] the quality of the people ... in this school". Just like kids pick up on bickering at home, students pick up on bickering at school. Ironically, the piece is illustrated with an image of two students embracing, obviously excited about each other. No climate change needed! The school climate will change when "unions" make allowances for choice and "reformers" make allowances for children, teachers and parents . The students are always right on.