My good friend, John Hinds, former principal of 17 years and current leadership consultant, just published a video that I wanted to feature on the blog today for my weekly anti-racist post. Though his video does not explicitly address racism, it does encourage us to examine our own biases as he relates a story about his first tour of a school to which he had been assigned. It brings me back to a couple of books I reviewed, Talking to Strangers and Bias, in this post, and the idea that our brains are naturally wired for bias to help us bring order to our world. As many administrators and teachers are returning to work in the next couple of weeks, I think that it is important to be conscious of our tendencies to make assumptions and how those assumptions may be detrimental to ourselves and others. One way to combat this is the Bias Toolkit, which is one of the many resources you can find in my Wakelet of Anti-Racism Resources.
Some people look at space differently. For example, you might walk past a suddenly empty retail space in an outdoor mall, and completely ignore the “For Lease” sign. At most, you might think, “What a pity. Another store has gone out of business.” But, I’m betting you don’t think, “Wow, that would be a great spot to have a “Night at the Museum” event showcasing student art and other great projects!”
That’s what John Hinds thought. And, he set about making this “pop-up museum” idea become a reality.
John Hinds is the Principal at Encino Park Elementary. (You can stalk him on Twitter @johnghinds.) More importantly, he is a man of ideas – especially ideas about maximizing space. I used to work for him until our paths diverged, and I’ve never known a person as passionate as he is about creating unique learning environments. This is the man who spearheaded the class on wheels in our former school, and currently has an initiative where parents artistically design ceiling tiles for his current school. Yes, ceiling tiles – because, of course, students should be just as inspired when they look up as they are when they look at the walls.
When John noticed a furniture store had vacated a uniquely designed space in one of the local outdoor malls, he knew it would be the perfect spot for a “Night at the Museum.” He made a deal to secure the space for a day. That evening, students will showcase art and clubs. Other schools in the cluster will participate. Students will provide music. Photos from the school year will be streamed, and new pictures will be taken and added to the stream that evening. One of my favorite ideas that John just shared with me is a “recording booth” where parents and students will have the opportunity to share their favorite memories about their school.
This will be an enjoyable evening for families, but businesses in the area will also reap benefits. It’s certain that this influx of families on a week night will flood the local restaurants (who might be generous enough to donate some of their profits to the school).
Sometimes, it’s nice to invite the community to your school. But, like John Hinds, maybe we should consider switching things up and bringing the school to the community.
One of our 1st grade teachers, Mrs. Cunningham, is piloting an unusual classroom at Fox Run Elementary this year. Much of the furniture is on wheels – including tables (instead of desks) and dry erase boards. She has just posted an awesome video on her blog showing the amazing ways this has transformed her room. From the beginning of the day – when the students walk in and immediately begin rolling the tables around to suit their morning routine – to their center activities, the students in Mrs. Cunningham’s video show the versatility such a classroom allows. Two tables easily make a computer pod, a dry erase board becomes a station, students who have demonstrated responsibility roll their tables out into the hallway to work, and anyone who learns best by standing or sitting on the floor is welcome to abandon his or her chair. You will also note that students who are commenting at the end of the video are using the microphones that go with her classroom amplification system – yet another powerful tool.
Our principal, John Hinds, saw a classroom similar to this at a university, and realized its potential. Coupled with a teacher who works tirelessly to provide a differentiated learning environment for her students, this classroom is an ideal example of student-centered learning at its best. Kudos for Mr. Hinds for having the vision (and providing the funding), and to Mrs. Cunningham and her students for being the trailblazers for our campus – and hopefully for many more elementary school classrooms in the near future!
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