A different education IS possible. New York.

After a wonderful 3-week educational trip to New York, I’ve first-hand experienced how a different education IS possible. 

In a world where everything is changing and evolving so fast, and where kids are growing up and being
immersed in technology since they are born, it becomes urgent -now more than ever- the need for us to change our schools and the way we teach. From the learning environments, to our classroom settings, the way we plan our lessons, how the students interact with each other and/or adults, or the way we record students’ learning, among many others.

Schools must be places where students feel happy and safe to be at, and a place where they look forward to going to every morning. After visiting many schools in New York, most of them independent, I’ve explored and learnt from many teaching and learning approaches, leadership dynamics and the learning communities they’ve created around each of them. As of all, I’ve had one of the best experiences in my life that has inspired me thoroughly, and most of all, has reaffirmed my strong willingness to change our educational system while validating its endless possibilities with examples such as AltSchool.

As the world progresses, our students’ and workplaces’ needs are changing very quickly (and will continue to do so at a faster pace) and the teacher/content centered focus is becoming more and more obsolete. Moreover, as the most experienced and trustworthy educational gurus, such as Ken Robinson or Marc Prensky (which words and speeches actually become a reality in the future of education), have shared with us in the past several months at World Educational Congresses in Madrid or London: this ‘learning revolution’is happening and is happening NOW. From what they’ve showed us, and what I have seen in NY this past month, I’ve learnt that our focus MUST be on preparing students for what the future will demand from them: life skills. Mastering problem-solving, critical thinking, emotional intelligence, team-working, creativity or communications, among others, is the key for a successful 21st century education. 

You might be thinking, ‘how do we work towards this educational transformation?’, well, what I would suggest would be the following:

  • Look deeply into your students’ interests and work out the curricula around these. The more the kids can connect what they are learning to real life and their personal experiences, the more they will remember and learn.
  • Create project-based learning experiencesaround those interests. Project-Approach expert, Ivonne Kogan, principal at the school I worked at in Mexico City, and author of the marvellous book ‘Engaging children’s minds’(you should read it if you want to learn how to start creating meaningful learning experiences through this approach) says that incorporating the Project Approach into the curricula, engages children intellectually and heightens their capacities for thinking, hypothesising, reasoning, and expressing their natural curiosity.
  • Organise hands-on learning experiences as much as possible. This allows students to directly observe and understand what is happening, and is the best option when presenting something new that the kids haven’t learnt about yet; it will be much easier for them to understand.
  • Involve emotional intelligencelearningacross all areas of the curriculum and devote at least 1 specific time slot every week to talk about emotions and how the children feel. Developing emotional skills such as self-awareness, empathy, active listening or their self-esteem since they are little will help them understand how people act and react to circumstances in the future, how to manage their own emotions and how to deal with conflicts.
  • Document and make visible students’ learning. Visible classrooms can be identified by five key principles—that learning is purposeful, social, representational, empowering, and emotional. Inspired by the innovative educational philosophy that originated in Reggio Emilia,  ‘Visible Learners’ (another book you should read) offers research-based practices for fostering learning in groups through documentation. To learn more you should also visit the Making Learning Visible Harvard project at http://www.pz.harvard.edu/projects/making-learning-visible

In conclusion, a wonderful learning revolutionis happening, as it should, because our societies’ and students’ needs have changed so much in the past 20 years -and we must adapt. We must provide the new generations with the skills that will help them be successful in all areas of their lives while being emotionally and intellectually strong; creative, innovative, problem-solvers, excellent communicators and able to identify their own and others’ feelings. Our role here, as educators, is to as work hard as necessary to bring out the most in every child and find and foster their unique talents through personalised paths on which to build their abilities and strengths. As in the end, a happy adult will be the one that knows what he wants to dedicate his/her life to, what he is good at, what he can offer others and the world, and what makes him/her joyful.

Finally, here’s to the wonderful books that school principals have recommended me in NY to lead this educational transformation with success 🙂

We hope this inspires you!


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