Archives for posts with tag: John Dewey


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The Progressive Ed Summit is a free conference in Baltimore.  There you will find a groundswell of people taking a stand for children.  A stand that sees children (All children!) as capable, creative, loving, powerful, and worthy of the deepest respect.  At the Summit  you will find a grassroots gathering of teachers sharing and learning together – with over 40 workshops to chose from.  You will also find artists and poets, shop owners and philanthropists, politicians, and students – coming together for a day of community.

New this year you will have a choice of 3 Master Classes at the Summit.  Master Classes will be led by three strong leaders in the field of education.  Dr. Susan Engel – our Keynote Speaker – will lead How to Help Children Develop Their Ideas.   Obi Okobi, Principal of City Neighbors Hamilton, will lead Social Justice and Racial Equity in Education.  Dr. Shyla Rao, Graduate Director at the Maryland Institute College of Art, will lead Arts Education as a form of Social Act.    Please join us for this opportunity and connect, learn, and share.


Dr. Sonja Santelises, CEO of Baltimore City Schools

The 6th Annual Progressive Education Summit will take place on Saturday, November 12th with keynote speaker, Dr. Susan Engel, a welcome address by Baltimore City Schools CEO Dr. Sonja Santelises, over 40 workshops from local progressive practitioners, and breakfast, lunch and a wine and cheese reception.

We hope you will join us!  REGISTER HERE.

Well, Happy New School Year!  We thought we better update the story of The Big Move at City Neighbors Charter School.  Lets start with the teacher who decided to try getting rid of all her traditional desks and chairs and create what she likes to call, “Giovanni’s Cafe” for teaching Language Arts in middle school.  If you recall back in #1 of this series we introduced the ideas of Ms. Sajida Davis:

First, Ms. Davis talked about her teaching.  She would need space for the classroom library, small meeting spaces, and a spot for her desk (could it be near a window?). Next she imagined a big whiteboard – a whole wall – from floor to ceiling so groups of students could be coming up with ideas together at the same time. She mentioned quiet spaces (and we looked out in the hallway and decided it was great and she would feel comfortable sending kids out there too). And when we began to talk about her tables and chairs that were being moved up here she said, “What I really wish is that I didn’t have to have tables and chairs.” Cool! What would you have? “You know, I want my classroom to be like a big coffee shop, with couches and comfy chairs, coffee tables, and some kind of stage area.”

 After a long summer of first relocating the library, then insulating the attic, then searching for and finding used furniture from hotel liquidators in the area, we spent $900 to create an entirely new classroom.  Here are some of the pictures from her space on the first day of school (some with students!):

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And now the most important question must be posed.  Will the physical environment impact the practice of the teacher?  How about the work of the students?  What does this new space create that works?  How about what doesn’t work?  These questions and more will be considered as we continue to check in with Ms. Davis this year in her new space.

Well, we made it.  Today is day 3 of a new school year.  More pictures and thoughts on the physical environment coming soon.

Just a few more pictures of the new space in use with our students:

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Students at City Neighbors in a thoughtful moment, working together.

Over 100 years ago, John Dewey said that education that aims only to teach skills will raise children who are preparingto be ruled over.

The same risk exists today.  But today we have a choice.  Will we teach skills, or give children a real education?  A “real” education, John Dewey said, is one based on meaningful work.  It includes the arts, projects, critical thinking, activism and stewardship.

My concern is that the public school system is not designed to make real education happen.  Under the false call for “Accountability”  there is pressure in public education for compliance, achieving standardized test results and following prescribed curriculum and instruction.

John Dewey would tell us not to make school the place where students passively spend time to prepare for their adult lives by memorizing information.  Instead, create schools in which students are in the practice of thinking of themselves as problem-solvers, behaving as active participants in our democracy, and carrying a vision of themselves as capable, worthy and compassionate citizens of the earth.

We need to empower our teachers to teach this way.  The power to create, to collaborate, to be creative, to make mistakes.  One of my favorite educators, Deb Meir, ( refers to the time children spend “in the company of adults.”  These adults are the teachers, who serve as a model for what it’s like to be empowered.  She asks us to consider the time our children spend in school, in the company of teachers.  Are they with teachers who feel empowered?

We need a real education for every student in Baltimore.  To do that, we need to empower the teachers.

It all comes back to empowering the schools.

Let’s design public education to make that happen.  Let’s allow every school to intentionally define its mission, design its environment, build the team of teachers, and create the best school together that they can imagine.

Empowered schools, empowered teachers, empowered students.  New rules.

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