I went to an after-school meeting, knowing only that it had to do with late start Tuesdays and education. I went in expecting there to be lots of other students there, I thought this would be a huge group of students protesting the apparent end to late start Tuesdays. It wasn’t.
After tracking down the friends who had invited me, we went to the classroom this “meeting” was said to take place. Given my previous conceptions of what this meeting would have in store, you can imagine my surprise and confusion when upon entering I was not greeted by the sight of other class members but instead, three history teachers whom I knew by reputation only (we were later joined by two Language Arts teachers whom I also didn’t know). I also quickly caught on that this meeting was not just about the proposed cancellation of late start Tuesdays. This meeting was about re-thinking the education system.
Almost every Tuesday at Nathan Hale High School, school starts at 10:00am. From 8:00 until school starts students are given the opportunity to come in early and get homework done, retake tests, get help from teachers, work on group projects or sleep in. Teachers will meet with one another and organize their curriculum so that their classes are in sync and complement each other. These meetings allow for Integrated Studies, homework mediation, and a chance for teachers to collaborate on how best to structure their curriculum and plan projects and lessons that they think will be beneficial to all students not just the ones in their classes. However because the school board has required all schools to meet a higher minimum amount of classroom hours, effective next year, these late start Tuesdays are slated for cancellation.
This meeting was in response to this plan, the few of us who attended all agreed that the significance of an education doesn’t come from how many hours you spend in a classroom but how much your classes motivate you to learn, and if you are an engaged student who can take advantage of opportunities to promote ones academic success, such as late start Tuesdays. The reason we value late starts is because it allows our school independence, our teachers are able to communicate with each other, to enforce project based learning and to introduce new curriculums.
There is a reason that Nathan Hale is one of the most highly ranked schools in Seattle and that is because we have a unique education system. This meeting soon branched out from how to preserve late starts to how to make Nathan Hale’s education system even more student involved.
We all agreed that constructive progress made in education doesn’t start with the teachers, it starts with the students. It starts with communication between students and teachers and parents. When students explore what the purpose of their education is, and how to get the most out of it, the more productive the education system will become. School shouldn’t just be something that you go through and come out of with more knowledge about things of varying relevance in your life. School should change you, help you explore different possibilities and enlighten you to become a more active thinker. Schools shouldn’t just create students that will accept the system, schools should create students who will challenge the system and will have the skills to do so. Education should get people excited and schools should, too.
That is what this meeting really was about. It was getting students and teachers talking about what they want out of their education and their schools. Late starts were just an excuse to get the conversation going.
Check out these library resources for more about educational change and theory.