Schools have long had reputations for being static places, lectures the most popular delivery method for classical content for decades in American education. The schools I attended in the last quarter of the 20th century looked much as those my parents had, and my grandparents before them. The schools my own kids attend carry with them some of the same baggage of old thinking and ways of teaching, but I see in the first decade and a half of this 21st century positive changes in schools and classrooms that are, simply put, good for kids.
So here’s to the innovators…
To the master of Diegueño’s library, whose vision of our media center includes hosting a New York Times bestselling author, encouraging students to play board games at lunch (and make real live eye contact and connections with each other), and whose enormous heart and smile truly make the space, as she likes to call it: “The Family Room of Campus.”
To the English teachers, who not only teach teenagers, but also teach teenagers about the teenage brain. Making The Outsiders relevant, these innovative educators surround the text with meaningful nonfiction that pushes students to think about the way they think and the way they learn.
To the Special Education Department, who decided to pioneer a new team-teaching model, bringing life a vision of how best to support kids academically, emotionally, and completely, in all their core classes.
The truly inspirational growth that is a part of the best schools comes not from any mandate, but from the creative approach brought to the work by individuals and groups of individuals committed to exploring new ideas, risking failure, and trying something completely different.
At Diegueño we’ve seen this in the form of an after school program taught by caring math and English teachers, the organization of a girls mentoring program, and visual art classes determined to push students to explore diverse mediums and celebrate the great results publicly and often.
From Diegueño Family Night, when students and their families are encouraged to unplug and connect, to our Diegueño Book Club, where parents and teachers meet to discuss ideas and education, those mavericks in our school family are the catalysts for growth.
Innovation takes courage, vision, and a fertile ground in which sometimes crazy ideas can take root and grow. It also takes people who can see challenges in new ways, face adversity with a wink, and not be happy with the status quo.
Education is strong today because of the people who were willing to take chances in the past, and its future will be strong because of those who put their hearts behind their big ideas, their heads around how they might try something new, and their energy in service of doing things to help others, even if those things haven’t been done that way before.