A fun place called school

Published 8:55 am Tuesday, March 14, 2017

In 1984, the late John Goodlad wrote a book called “A Place Called School.” He interviewed more than a thousand students, teachers, administrators and parents. Essentially, he was optimistic for the future of education in America. However, he was also critical of the ways we educate our kids in schools. He mentioned the need to use data, but also was cautious about over-emphasizing test scores of students.
Right now, it’s the title of Goodlad’s book that means the most to me.
Nearly every fall since I was 6 years old and in the first grade at Eastside School, I’ve been in a place called school. Next fall, after 43 years as an educator, I’ll be retired and won’t be coming back to “a place called school.” That place has been very good to me, and I hope it’s been the same for the students and teachers and fellow educators who have been in those places with me.
I had a conversation the other night about all those years of school, and a veteran teacher said, “It’s just not as much fun as it used to be” to teach. In many ways, he’s right. The pressures are greater, the job is way harder, and the expectations are higher than they’ve ever been for schools and educators to do well. Some people even question whether public schools are working well at all. Sadly, “fun” seems to be on vacation around a lot of schools.
However, I still believe it’s possible for schools to be both successful at teaching kids and fun places to learn and teach in at the same time. Not only is it possible, I think it’s essential to do both. Students and people in general enjoy it when their hard work pays off, whether it’s in a place called school or elsewhere.
Watch a kid put together a Lego set and smile when it’s complete. Look at the pride in a child’s face when she has written an engaging story, or when he’s created a work of art that took some time and concentration. I marvel at what students can make in a machine shop and share the effort it took to do that work. When the light bulb goes off over a math student’s head, it’s a fun, enjoyable moment. That smile is so rewarding to a teacher. When teachers share these moments with me, they get so enthusiastic.
And, it all happens in “a place called school.” That place has been a fun place for me for many years, and I hope that it can be for kids and teachers for all the years to come.

John Jarpe is the superintendent of Brandywine Community Schools. He can be reached at (269) 684- 7150.