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Monthly Archives: September 2013

Price, Voice, and Choice

We often hear concerns about the high costs of a quality education, and, as an independent-school parent myself, I share those concerns and know firsthand the sacrifices required for an independent-school education. Yet, when I reflect on my own experience as a student at a large public high school, I’m reminded of so many classmates who were underserved in one way or another, more by the institutional culture of the place than by the basically caring teachers. Those memories lead me to consider how much human potential is wasted or suppressed in schools. Ken Robinson has spoken and written at length about these costs, and his words often ring in my ear as I consider our school’s program and teaching.

What is the cost of students not feeling secure enough to fully explore their innate talents and abilities? What price do they pay when their schools fail to provide an atmosphere that is safe enough for them to be themselves while they work to find their voices as adolescents? For how long does one pay the price for that lack of opportunity or safety?

Obviously those costs are difficult to measure, but that is because they aren’t paid immediately. Rather, they are paid for years and possibly decades after the student leaves school. Schools that do not provide their students with the means and the initiative to become lifelong learners are fostering a culture that provides little or no value; they are merely mass-producing fact reciters and bubble-test form fillers. Many of these students walk off, diploma in hand, to find that they are incapable of applying what they’ve just learned to the obstacles and opportunities in store for them. Victims of what clinical psychologist Meg Jay calls “benign neglect,” they are far less likely to maximize the critical years of young adulthood.

They may have learned but they have not become learners.

What is the culture of your school or the schools attended by those you love most? For my money, the culture of a high-functioning, strong, independent school is worth the price.

Life is a Project

Although it might seem like corporatism run amok, there is some wisdom in the idea that one’s life is a project. After all, if you take David Allen’s advice and define a project as anything with more than one step, there are a multitude of things that qualify as projects. Life is like that; it has many steps and requires a degree of planning and management in order to attain successful outcomes.

So, if you can learn to embrace the application of project management principles to your daily endeavors, you might begin to see your life and your work differently. Viewed through the lens of projects, many difficult challenges seem less daunting, or may at least help you make that all-important first step.

My first step in this process was to begin using kanban board software, which many of my colleagues are also using, some with a little prodding from me. One of the best practical representations of this concept is Asana, a dynamic, web-based system designed to improve team productivity. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how much the software forces me to think about process and product; work I’m otherwise likely to overlook, or at least under-emphasize in my often overfull days.

Schools also have a lot to learn about agile project management, and some have embraced it already. If you look at a list of so-called 21st-century learning skills and overlay that with best-practice project management, you’ll notice a significant overlap. I’m excited to see how schools pick up on this potential. If you know of anyone using agile project management in educational contexts, please comment below, or contact me.

Learn More

Listen to a podcast by the creator of Asana.

Dutch schools are using eduScrum to help students learn more effectively.

In Other News…

Darrow School was cited recently in the Education Week blog, “Independent Schools, Common Perspectives, as a leader among schools that are pushing the envelope of environmental sustainability in education.