Sunday, March 3, 2013

Education everywhere

Education is the whole world now.

The education work I do is mostly at the periphery of the formal educational system. I've designed programming for after-school youth centers, helped start up child care centers, and advised a network of child care centers about how to meet the expectations of state regulators, local funders and United Way agencies. I've helped squirming fifth graders improve their math skills. I've done fundraising, grant proposal writing, lobbying and legislative advocacy. And beyond that, there's the work I do around mental health and special education.

I'm even more invested in education for adults, I am working with workforce development experts on a project in Cincinnati's Winton Hills neighborhood to help just a handful of public housing families achieve real success as they define it. I'm helping another client develop protocols, administrative procedures and training material for an agency that serves high-risk adult clients with developmental disabilities, mental health problems and histories of violence. I've taught law enforcement, judges, mental health professionals, addiction treatment workers, youth program workers, and community college students.

Most of this was outside formal schools. The high-stakes nature of today's education systems creates a kind of gravity that attracts money and stimulates conflict. Consider all those education reform movies. Some are pro-union, others anti-union. Some favor public schools, others support charters. I have heard a lot of loose talk about innovation and vision. I've seen plenty of educational disappointment too.

I prefer to work with the learning that happens outside the formal school day, outside the school year, when classrooms are mostly empty or hijacked or repurposed. After-school and post-school are interesting spaces and times. You can bring in non-experts to sit with a couple of children to figure out math that is hard for everyone. You can work inside the culture and outside the curricula. You can have two dozen fifth graders measure the school gymnasium with measuring tapes and rulers. You can bring in whole families, and let everyone who shows up show off. You can design experiences for parents just returning after prison. You can work in the least formal settings, and focus your effort on what keeps people safe, Because people never stop learning, you can almost make utter chaos work teach lessons.

So thank you for checking in.  As we move ahead, expect to read posts from inside and outside the educational system. We may occasionally complain about this or that, but complaining is not our focus, We would rather show off what is possible, and what is known to work.

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