Ask any creator…an architect, sculptor, writer, carpenter, choreographer, composer or designer. Sometimes you just have to stop and start all over again. They say it is ‘insanity’ to continue doing the same things and yet keep expecting different results. Sometimes you have to detach, throw out and then re-create. This is the formula I suggest for the public school systems in America.
I do want to applaud and hug the individual schools that are safe and loving places for children to attend. But for the most part, American schools are challenged only to produce high test scores not highly functioning young people. High test scores. I believe there are financial incentives and political motivations for that depressing challenge.
But where are the incentives or the inspiration for a school to become a place where all of the children are happy and expressive, no matter the speed of their academic achievements? A place where the building is bursting at the seams with weekly creative projects and competitions, book clubs and glee clubs, drama and dance performances, exciting guests, festivals, fairs and community events.
I say we take a year and ‘stop with’ the academic testing and the ninety minute pressurized periods of math and reading. Give the teachers a break from all of the grading, assessments and evaluations. Let’s try something radically different to engage young people in thoughtful learning and thoughtful behavior.
Bring in all of the artists and performers who will teach the children songs to sing, dances to do and how to take a photo. Bring in the storytellers and story readers. Bring in the screenwriters and film makers. Bring in the drummers who can teach boys to strengthen their bodies as they learn intricate polyphonic rhythms. Bring in the martial artists, the wordsmith rappers and hip-hop dance choreographers. Bring in the gymnasts and the poets and members of the Geek Squad. Let the students enjoy learning in a way that does not require testing.
Let the teachers do nothing but observe and participate and replenish themselves with enthusiasm. And then in the middle of every day, between the rehearsals for Shakespeare and perfecting their cartwheels, let the students and the teachers have a whole hour for lunch…plus recess!
If a whole year of this is too radical and unwieldy, then make it the first month of the school year or at least the first week of each month. School has to be a place where students and teachers enjoy. Mandatory joy! Nothing will work without it.