I served as the Chair of the first Waters LSC in 1991 for five years. It was an intense experience, with alot of drama and alot of learning. We discovered “progressive” education* (see below for my explanation of this term) and dedicated ourselves to bringing it into Waters. Much of what makes the school what it is today is based on that very powerful and humanistic outlook. In 2000, the tides shifted and the Federal “No Child Left Behind” Law sought to replace progressive schooling with hi stakes testing, sorting and ranking of students by test scores, and punishing schools that failed to meet arbitrarily imposed standards. It has been a difficult task to move forward against such a head wind. But the progressive impulse still can be felt in the school. And it is largely the job of the Local School Council to defend and support that vision.
Ecology is part of that, as is the integration of other subject areas with ecology. Children are multifaceted beings, and they need to be immersed in all aspects of human endeavor. For this reason, I urge parents and community members to consider serving on the LSC. It is an opportunity to learn, to advocate for our children, teachers and our school. Progressive voices on the LSC can help keep our school on track, to grow and to blossom.
Applications must be submitted by 3:00pm on Wednesday March 9th in the school office.
*Progressive ed is historically linked to John Dewey in the early 20th century, but there are many similar strands with many voices and leaders up to the present day. In a traditional school (like the CPS I went to as a child) the classroom and schedule were rigidly structured. Desks bolted to the floors, each child isolated, teacher in front delivering lessons, students in their own bubbles either paying attention or not. The class was tested on the content of the lesson, ranked, some doing well, others not. Report cards went home to deliver the news to the parents. English, math, social studies, science, and art or music (if it was offered) were stand alone subjects, delivered on a schedule.In the progressive education model, the classroom is a learning community, the teacher is the coach. Students work in all sorts of clusters with others on projects of their own making, led by their own curiosity. The teacher checks in and assists with resources and encouragement. The resources are often from the neighborhood, from outside the school, including the experience and talents of parents. The disciplines are combined, with art being part of math and social studies part of science (for example). A report by a group of students on a historical event might be given in the form of a play, or a piece of music, or a mural. The different talents and strengths in the students were shared in the group, recognized and celebrated. Students were allowed to venture out into the world, to engage it, to appreciate and understand its beauty and problems, and to act to change things for the better. When parent conferences were held, they did not include grades and ranking, but presentation of the students work as a portfolio, with a thoughtful conversation between parents, teacher and students about the student’s progress and future goals. Sounds impossible? It is not. In the 90s our staff was invited to many, many conferences and meetings with other educators and schools who were implementing these methods with great success. Our school partnered with visionary professors at National Louis University’s Center for City Schools. Over the next 10 years the Center and its fellows published a doen books developing theory and practice. Most of them are in our staff library. Let me know if you would like to borrow one or two.