schools should be so much more

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Schools are for so much more than academics.

This past weekend, I had the chance to leave the city and get some fresh air and see three schools in Vermont while visiting friends and their new baby. Hooray for long weekends!

Though one of the school visits was really just to take in a Renaissance fair that was being held on that campus and another was to take in a harvest festival — and, frankly, when you’re in Vermont in mid-October, that’s what you do — I got the chance to spend a lot of time on the campus of the third. What struck me is how much more there is to a school than the teaching and learning. And I don’t mean that in a “hey, there’s community service, too!” or “we have an advisory program!” kind of way, but more in a “there’s so much about living that students need to learn” kind of way.

From signs that question ignorance to seeing cows in a campus barn that sees shifts of student workers; big school festivals had have a gigantic sense of community that went beyond any one school and its teachers, students, and parents; places to have fun and rest and be in nature; to tables and chairs that so seamlessly use the natural resources around them, everything that I saw had so much to do with non-academic teaching and learning. And because I wasn’t used to any of it, I feel like I learned so much in three days about how where we are can dramatically affect who we are and what/how we learn.

So we already know that schools need to be places of as much social and emotional learning as academic learning, but there has to be more to it than that. How do we teach kids about who, how, and what to be? (And, perhaps more personally relevant, how do you do that in the confines of a small school building… you know, one that doesn’t have a barn or a lake?)