At Long-View, we spend a significant amount of time investing in the learning culture of our school, with particular attention paid to how this translates within our mathematics classrooms. As Harvard educator Dr. Richard Elmore has so often made clear, the “default culture of American instruction” contains “certain robust patterns of instructional practice that are unique to the US and that are highly destructive to higher level student learning.” From our standpoint, these highly destructive instructional patterns are easily observed within American math classrooms and at Long-View we seek to disrupt these and nurture within Long-View math classrooms instructional practices that support high cognitive demand and high levels of learning among all students. This starts with deliberate work cultivating an environment that attends in an intentional manner to attitudes, beliefs, customs, and ways of interacting that resist the “default culture of schooling”….
At Long-View, learners are encouraged to extend their learning beyond the boundaries of the school day—to see their learning as a constant process and embrace it as their own responsibility. This month, all of us in the Long-View community have a special opportunity to do just that, and it’s right down the street: the Texas Book Festival….
I have many fond memories of my childhood, but the ones that are most prevalent, and arguably times when I learned about problem solving and navigating sometimes contentious social situations, are the ones when I engaged in unstructured free play with other kids from the neighborhood. I’m talking hours upon hours of time playing tag, climbing trees (and falling out of them), building forts out of found sticks, and catching frog spawn from the creek with these neighborhood children (not all of which I got along with) until the street lights came on signaling it was time to go home…
At Long-View, our days begin not with the ringing of a school bell, but with the resonant hum of a singing bowl. Teachers, learners, and visitors gather around an (unignited) campfire log, and as the sound of the singing bowl fades slowly to silence, we settle ourselves in for a rich day of learning.
This ritual, which we call “Campfire,” is not just circle time or show-and-tell, but an intellectually rigorous start to every day. We begin by greeting each member of the community with the Zulu word Sawubona, which means “I see you.” Each person responds, “Sikhona,” meaning “I am here.” But don’t be mistaken--this is not just a silly way of taking attendance. When our learners say they are here, they mean it in every sense of the phrase. Not only are they physically and intellectually present, but they are here for each other as a community of thinkers and problem-solvers….
Problem solving is an integral part of the learning experience at Long-View, and Indigo Band learners are working on the unique, not to mention complex, endeavor of constructing a prosthetic hand that can handle (pun intended) the task of grasping and lifting a cup of sand with a weight of at least 200 grams. “One of the biggest challenges is that we have to design it using materials either from the Maker Space or from home,” says Esme. “Marin’s prototype is really impressive,” she adds. “She’s even thinking about connecting a motor to it!”