We love Sir Ken Robinson’s talk on changing education paradigms and were reminded of this talk when we read Shelley Wright’s recent post on academic teaching and focus on “content” (without context!), and why these approaches to school are harming our children.

She notes that kids are often expected to listen to boring lectures that have nothing to do with their everyday lives, and they spend time copying down notes that they can quickly find online. They memorize answers, only one of which will get them an A on the next test. If they come up with a different answer, they are wrong, and they, therefore, fail. Students know how to “do school,” but rarely are they totally engaged and inspired by what they learn. As Robinson points out in his talk, this approach to schooling is outdated, and does not take into account the changing nature of our society, our workforce, and technology. While it is important that students have a common knowledge base to draw from, our educational system must turn its focus not just on what students know, but how they think and what the context is for their knowledge.

Coming to school should be exciting. Students “should be able to ask the questions that matter to them and pursue the answers. They should discover what they are passionate about, what truly sets their hearts and souls on fire. They should discover they can make a difference now. Above all, they should leave school knowing what they are good at,” according to Wright.

Students should lead the research into what they want to learn, get dirty trying to figure out how to accomplish a task relevant to their lives, and thus be responsible for what they learn. This encourages them to solve problems, persevere, communicate, and collaborate. They can build, tear down, and create again on a path to self-directed learning. We believe that students want to explore and learn. Nurturing that desire is our essential job as educators.

The Grayson School’s mission is to “guide exceptionally gifted children to fulfill their potential through a highly individualized, accelerated learning environment that nurtures creativity, critical thinking skills, and confidence. Grayson will offer its students an education worthy of their intellect and their intrinsic desire to learn and think deeply.”

Our approach involves engaging students in their own learning, giving them the opportunity to delve deeply into subjects that interest them and taking ownership of their education. This gives them the confidence to assume great responsibility in their lives and in society. We don’t do this by having students memorize content. They are active agents in their education, and they develop a love of learning that will last a lifetime.

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