By Marie Lardino
"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes."
- Marcel Proust
Friday was an unusual day at VIS. It was unusual because our teachers and students took part in an experiment that touched us all. This experiment however, was not ours, at least initially. It belonged to fifty pre-service teachers from the Master of Teaching program at OISE, University of Toronto, who came to VIS to put several of their pre-planned lessons to the test. The idea was to observe the delivery of each lesson (or “Lesson Study”) by their peers, who would then give further input and engage in reflection. In order to carry this out, the teacher candidates took over our classrooms, grade by grade, infusing their teaching style into our school’s (pre-established) media literacy theme.
Before the lessons took place, the teacher candidates gathered as a group in our Movement Studio to ask questions about the school. I was touched by the fact that they seemed to embrace our teaching model so wholeheartedly. The first group of candidates seemed captivated by the look, feel and educational mandate of the school. The second group, who visited during the afternoon, showed the same enthusiasm. When each group left the building, they seemed encouraged by the notion that a school has the power to be transformative – for students, as well as for teachers and parents. Once in the classrooms, the passion displayed by these teacher candidates, their understanding of what the global school can offer children, and their apparent desire to make meaningful change in education, left me in awe. I’ve been reassured that Faculties of Ed. such as the OISE’s, MT Program are finding exceptional teachers, and guiding them toward creating inspiring learning environments that are sure to make a difference.
As for our students, they engaged fully with each learning opportunity. Although they love their own teachers, they seemed to love the benefits of having been taught by teachers who could offer a different perspective. And although they are accustomed to having a small group of student teachers on an ongoing basis, they wanted to see 'how' and 'what' other teachers taught. What we didn’t know, was that on Friday, from the youngest fourth grader to the oldest eighth grader, each of them was consciously trying to make a contribution to the 'future' of education. We found this to be the case, because they said so during a discussion that unfolded at the tail end of the school day. Dr. Susan Schwartz (who teaches MT students) took furious notes while James in grade 6 said this:
“We got to see the next generation of teachers, who might be teaching our children, gain experience teaching first hand”. There were other insightful remarks:
“It’s cool to think that they really got into it, showed us how to learn, and taught us how they learned’.
But when Cole, (in grade 8) made the following comment, “VIS people are special and if those teachers learned from our teachers, and if they go off to other schools, they can change the schools and how people think of children and education”, Judy Blaney (who also teaches in the MT Program) turned and glanced at me with a look of disbelief.
Such is the kid equipped with critical thinking skills! They see beyond what is immediate: they can evaluate the potential of good teaching, and see themselves capable of contributing their insights toward a preferred future for schooling. So in the end, my question became: who was teaching whom? And most likely, who was evaluating whom and toward what goal?
So the idea that our students began to own this ‘experiment” was inspiring for me. As for the most profound lesson gained by these promising teacher candidates, my view is that it was primarily one of ‘humility’. What one might think can't be learned from kids, can.
I admire teachers who are open-minded. And I cherish the idea that there are people in this world who recognize that learning is a reciprocal endeavour -- a shared gift.
As for me, my lesson was that there is hope for tomorrow. If today is any indication of what is to come, there is a growing number of teachers out there who are ready and willing to embrace the ‘big idea’ in education. All we had to do is ask the kids!