Thursday I spent the day in Gainesville teaching at Healthy Learning Academy. I had a great day. It is interesting to be at all these different schools in different states, you really start to see what is working in class rooms and what is not. Early in the project I taught for a day in Vermont. The school was based on an 80 minute per class -three classes a day model. The kids were great. Their work surpassed all the other high schools I have visited. With 80 minutes and three classes the students had time to think about the concerns of each class. They had accomplished amazing pieces. The teacher told me how much calmer the students were than with the standard model of 6 classes for only 40 minutes each. I have noticed how exuberant all the 2nd and 3rd graders are when learning to use tools. The kids at Healthy Learning Academy were excited and enthusiastic , but calm. Many of the schools I have visited have limited recess to one 30 minute period a week for elementary classes. The energy explodes when students get to be physical for these woodworking projects. At the Healthy Learning Academy students begin their day with yoga for 30 minutes a day, the focus is on the physical and motor skills as well as academic .The focus shows.
I spoke to a retired teacher a month ago who told me he retired early from disgust of what has happened to education in america. When he started teaching , the focus was on developing each student to their greatest potential, as a teacher he knew each student was an individual with different aptitudes. He retired when he felt he was forced to see each student as the same individual who was being taught with the only purpose of passing a test. The test is supposedly to prepare each student for college. The irony being that a large number of his students can no longer afford to go to school after graduation. I am not an expert in education ,but even I can see that if a high school wood working class has 36 students per class, 6 classes a day for only 40 minutes , there is no way a teacher or student can be successful, so that program will fail. While in Florida I heard that the state was passing a teacher merit program . The idea is that if a teachers class had passing scores on state test they would receive a higher rate of pay. I found this a little frightening. You could be the greatest teacher in the world , but if you are teaching 6th grade and your students arrive without the ability to read ,why should that reflect on you and your salary.I was very impressed with the energy and commitment to the individual at the Healthy Learning Academy . I was honored to be one of many influences passing through the school.