In education, we tend to focus most of our attentions on all that is wrong with our schools. By emphasizing the problems and trumpeting the shortcomings, we thing we can drive greater attention to potential solutions and possible fixes.
In the process, we tend to drive out meaningful conversations with the buzzing white noise of negativity. We simply don’t take the time to celebrate the successes, examine the promising practice, and acknowledge a job well done.
Last week, Eduflack had the opportunity to spend the day at Episcopal Academy, a terrific P-12 independent school in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania. The reason for my visit? To observe and help with the school’s J-Term, an interdisciplinary program that the school’s high schoolers undertake.
The projects were fascinating, demonstrating just the sort of teamwork, collaboration, and integrated, project-based learning that we all seem to seek from a 21st century learning environment. More importantly, learners are engaged in new ways, bringing together what they’ve learned in other academic subjects and applying them in ways that align with the personal interests and passions.
Don’t believe me? Check out some of the items that have come out of this year’s J-Term. Tools like videos that look at:
- An inside look into the terrific work done by this year’s J-Termers
- How J-Term “allows students to become great”
- Apps that come out of the J-Term
More of their work can be found on Twitter, with the hashtag #EAJterm. And it is definitely worth checking out.
Some may say that there isn’t much a “public” school can learn from an independent school. They would be wrong. What drives students to learn is universal. Great teaching is universal. And innovative approaches to learning is universal. We may not be able to replicate down to the letter, but we can look to all schools – traditional publics, charters, independents, and parochial – for new and interesting ways to approach teaching and learning.
Many thanks to the teachers and students who let me share in the J-Term experience. (Particularly to those students who reinforced that Instagram is king with today’s students, Twitter is still a major driver, and Vine isn’t the “be all” that some say for the upcoming generation of college students.) And special thanks to Dr. T.J. Locke, the head of Episcopal Academy and a truly inspirational educator and leader. I learned a great deal during my day on campus, and seeing J-Term at work rejuvenated my desire to better focus on the positives and the truly transformative efforts underway in education today.