What Kind of School Have YOU Created?

Let’s start with a simple truth: Genuine learning is a beautiful process that leaves people mentally challenged and stretched and refreshed.  It’s a time of exploration and discovery and excitement that is fundamentally about making connections between notions and new ideas and individuals who are passionate about studying the same content together.

Genuine learning is a joyful act worthy of celebration:

(click here to view and download on Flickr)

Schooling is vastly different.  Schooling is a grind that leaves people exhausted.  It’s a forced march through content that someone else decided was essential or interesting or important.  It’s inflexible and intimidating — driven by unrealistic targets and uncompromising deadlines and cheap attempts at holding everyone and everything “accountable.”

Learning-centered schools are vibrant and alive.  People smile.  People laugh.  People participate — in lessons and in one another’s lives.  Schools that have left learning behind are silent and sad.  People go through the motions.  People do what they are told.  People flee at the final bell.

What kind of school have YOU created?



 Related Radical Reads:

Do Cheap and Easy Letter Grades Tell the Whole Accountability Story?

Is Standardized Testing Changing Me for the Worse?

How Testing Will Change What I Teach Next Year

Related categories:
  • CarlDraeger


    I am re-entering the classroom after a two year tour of duty as a full-time mentor teacher specialist. As I explore my options for teaching positions, my biggest consideration is the school climate. My questions were: “Are the kids at the center of every decision?”,  “Does the teaching staff value laughter?”, and  “Is collaboration the norm?”.

    Now my question is: “Is this school learning-centered?” Sums it all up. 

    • billferriter

      You will know it the minute

      You will know it the minute that you walk in the building, Carl!

      Learning centered buildings just feel right.

      Isn’t amazing that we even need to talk about whether or not a school is “learning centered?”  Sure seems like that should be a no brainer.  



  • BillIvey

    Very cool!

    Love the idea of “learning centered schools.” I agree with Carl, it sums it up nicely. My Humanities 7 class is currently using the 16 characteristics of This We Believe to look at our school as part of their self-designed unit on education. I wonder if this blog would be a good writing prompt to wrap up the unit.

    • billferriter

      I’m always jealous when you

      I’m always jealous when you talk about your school, Bill!  

      I’d give anything to have the flexibility to do some of the things that you get to do.  

      So cool.

      Hope you are well, friend!


  • ReneeMoore

    Real Learning is Possible in Schools

    Apologize for not posting my reply sooner as I’ve been thinking about this piece of yours since I first saw it. We (all of us) have contributed by action or inaction to the creation of different types of school settings and climates for children and teachers across the country. Some attend schools that are vibrant and invigorating; others in settings that depress even discourage learning by children or adults.

    It’s the existence of those vibrant places that gives me hope because those of us in less optimal settings can use them as examples, beacons, even prods. Especially when they have student demographics that parallell our own (that’s often used by some as an excuse for creating the more dismal places).

    One of my favorite examples is Mission Hill School in Boston, founded by Debbie Meier. I followed the series A Year at Mission Hill with great interest and point administrators, teachers, policy makers to it whenever I can as an example of what a public school and a public education could be.

  • DeidraGammill

    Great question, Bill. One we

    Great question, Bill. One we should ask ourselves every day, no matter where we teach. Even the best teachers can slip into bad habits if they are not constantly mindful of their entire reason for being in the classroom in the first place!

  • marsharatzel

    Room for another kind of joy?

    Hi my friends,

    I agree with this statement, sort of.  For me, joy doesn’t necessarily translate as smiles and laughing.  Here’s why I think that.  Joy can come from tackling something that is so engaging that the concentration required consumes you and the problem just sucks everything out of a person.  It haunts you.  It plagues you.  Until you solve it.

    Students when they face this kind of learning are drawn in (almost like moths to a flame) and they scrabble and scratch their way to understanding.

    I think they experience joy at the end when they’re exhausted but also rewarded with knowing they just did something that was hard and just beyond their reach unless they tried really hard.  I know I’ve hit that point when I get emails with suggested answers in off school hours or I’m greeted at my door in the morning with someone who has a new theory or proposed solution they came up with the night before.

    That’s joy.

    But not necessarily the laughing & smiling kind.  I’d call this the joy of satisfaction.

    Until they come to the end of their quest.  I’d worry that it’s too hard for them except for the fact that you’re usually asked….”Can we have another one?  That was really hard but fun.”