Monday, March 12, 2012

Deborah Meier Visits the Open School

On Friday March 9th, we at the Open School were lucky enough to host one of my personal heroes, Deborah Meier.  Deborah has been an advocate and activist for progressive education for decades.  She has been a teacher and worked as the teacher-director of the Central Park East in Harlem and Mission Hill School in Boston. Both these schools are models of progressive education and are similar in many ways to the Open School.  

Deborah visited several classrooms and then met informally with staff after school.  The discussion was engaging and inspiring.  The conversation focused on the challenges of preserving progressive education in the high stake world of educational accountability.  We discussed the need to remain vigilant in holding true to our progressive values as we respond the state mandates.  Deborah utilized the following metaphor to illustrate the point.

To paraphrase . . .

Imagine you are at the beach on a beautiful sunny day, lying on your towel in the sand.  You jump into the water to play and cool off.  You lose yourself in in the water and sometime later decide to find your way back to your towel.  As you emerge from the water, you notice that you have drifted and the your towel is some distance up the beach. 

The metaphor is important in that it reminds us that the tide is always moving us in one direction or another.  If we are not conscious of the tide we may unknowingly drift away from what we value.  For me the tide is inevitable, and as one staff member pointed out it seems to be moving more quickly these days.  However, Deborah's metaphor reminds us how important it is to remember what we stand for so we always know where our towel is. 

To this end, I am starting to think about the idea of an Open School summit.  The idea, still in the brainstorm stage, would involve students, parent, and staff spending a Saturday together for the purpose of creating a vision of what we want the Open School to be over the next 5, 10, and 40 years.  

Let me know what you think about the summit idea and you thought about what outcomes you would wan to see for such an event.         

Deborah is the author of several books and articles including; The Power of Their Ideas (see the Principal's Page for my top five favorite books on education In Schools We Trust.  You can find out more about her on her web site