The good news on the education front is that there is great momentum building among teachers across the United States (and abroad) to bring a more balanced and joyful approach to the education of children. I feel fortunate to work with an organization (the Northeast Foundation for Children) that is making a positive impact in the lives of children and adults. We are a mission-driven foundation that strives to create joyful and challenging schools, where equal emphasis is placed on social and academic curriculum. Our approach to teaching is known as the Responsive Classroom approach, and we believe that children’s (and adults’) best learning occurs in social contexts, and that schools have a responsibility to teach the skills needed for living and learning in community (skills like cooperation, assertion, empathy, self-control and responsibility).
This type of approach is very much needed in the stardards-based and testing-focused educational climate of today. When we work with teachers and schools, it’s as if we are giving them the skills and permission “to teach,” versus “preparing children to take a test.” In a workshop a few years ago, I had the privilege of working with a group of teachers and a parent who had traveled from Israel to Nashville, TN to learn more about Responsive Classroom. During the course of the week, these women shared poignant stories about how Responsive Classroom practices, like daily Morning Meetings that provide opportunities for students to become know and to know others, were helping to plant seeds of hope and compassion among students, families and the larger community. I hear similar stories of hope and inspiration every day from teachers across the country.