Thursday, March 19, 2009

A School of My Own

A few years ago, someone approached me about starting a charter school. Although I was on board with the idea, quite frankly, I was horrified at the possibility of being the person who executed it. Me, a principal? I could not see it.

Still feel that way. I'm more of a supporting role actor. But I saw this article yesterday, via the ASCD newsletter, and it got me daydreaming about school.

ScienceDaily (Mar. 16, 2009) — Children exposed to a multi-year programme of music tuition involving training in increasingly complex rhythmic, tonal, and practical skills display superior cognitive performance in reading skills compared with their non-musically trained peers, according to a study published in the journal Psychology of Music.

It's old news that studying the arts helps children do better in other areas. And yet, and yet, we keep pushing art and music and literature aside in a sort of shortsighted devotion to Gradgrindian ideals.

Wouldn't it be great to teach students in a lively, interesting way that would make them want to learn? To include not only studies of content, but teach them how to do things--play music, build stuff, make art, grow plants, sew a placemat, knit a hat--so they could gain that beautiful confidence that always comes from competence? At this dream school, the curriculum would be integrated, let's say, so that kids would see that everything is connected, that there's math in music and biology in the garden and reading is everywhere, and so the skills and knowledge would not have this artificial demarcation, but would seep into real life.

P.S. Besides, pretty much any kind of intervention improves student achievement in reading. You can sit with a kid for thirty minutes a week and just give him your undivided attention, talk about basketball or video games or whatever, and his scores on reading tests will probably improve.

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