I have a background as a Science and Maths teacher. When my son expressed interest in attending a local charter school, I approached the notion with an open yet cautious mind. The title of the name of the school and their advertisement at a local schools fair indicated they were technology oriented. We expected small class sizes and one to one, which means we expected every child to have a device for them to use.
Before I signed my child up for this school I thought I would check the learning environment. During my surprise visit, I noticed immediately how quiet the school was. This is a little unusual for a school where engaged-active learning is occurring. However, when every child has a device and is working at their own pace sometimes classrooms can sound like this.
After touring the school I learned the unnatural quiet way not due to happy, engaged work. The students were quiet because they would be disciplined if they did not remain quiet and follow the teacher with their eyes. They were also required to follow painted lines on the floor when walking in the halls. This school is training followers.
There were large signs informing the students they were not allowed to talk in the hallway. There were no textbooks. The principal attempted to turn the dearth of books into a selling point. He explained there would be no out of date information.
Every class of students had worksheets in front of them. The teachers were covering the worksheet in a step by step manner. The only exception was coding class which was also being taught in a rote step by step manner. The technician would put in a line of code and then the students would copy it in to the only set of computers in the school.
During my visit I did not observe a single child engaged in any form of play. Play is how children learn deeply. I did not see innovative or integrated lessons or any best practices. Instead. I observed large classes (33 to 36 students), oppressive rules and lots of worksheets.
If Tennessee wants to fund school innovation this school was not fulfilling the calling of creating an innovative, positive environment.
Perhaps in place of funding dry, rote teaching, we should consider funding some laboratory schools. The state could test what works for the children of Tennessee.
I suspect that happy environments would be foundational to learning to love learning. The love of learning is the essential ingredient to generate life long learners. We could start here by creating schools students love to attend and teachers love to work. In the current climate that's an innovative idea. You might even say it's revolutionary.