I am happy to announce that A Gift of Wonder, my book about my six year journey as a new teacher with my first class at The Waldorf School of Cape Cod, will be published in the spring of 2017 by SteinerBooks.
The book is centered in classroom experience in a school where teachers stay with the same group of children for up to eight years. A Gift of Wonder reveals a secret of schools that inspire children to learn through wonder and curiosity rather than anxiety about achievement. This secret cannot be found in novel reading programs, the latest math text or a new teaching methodology. Rather, the key to nurturing highly motivated students is simple — trust the professional judgement of teachers. As the video accessed by the link below shows, teachers need the freedom to customize their plans to the needs of their students rather than tailor their lessons to a test.
A Gift of Wonder shows what happens when we free teachers from the stifling demands imposed by rigid standards and high stakes testing. Above all, unburdened teachers have time to focus on their students. They can take time to think about a first grader like Megan who appears to not listen, a fifth grader like Thomas who is stressed by working too hard, about a new sixth grader like William who left his previous high pressure school disenchanted with learning. A teacher who is not correcting tests after school can instead meet with Megan’s parents to figure out why she is not tuned in. A Teacher who is not restrained by rigid requirements has the time and energy to create a special lesson to help Thomas learn that success requires rest as well as hard work. A teacher working in freedom might notice when William is uncharacteristically paying attention and change the lesson to hold his focus.
So much can happen for the good of students when teachers are not shackled with onerous requirements. They can take their students outside in nature. (See the picture of a fourth grade group learning about salt marsh ecology.) They have time to study an exciting approach to history to share with their class. And, they have the liberty to alter a lesson to make time for an unexpected conversation led by the students themselves.
A Gift of Wonder can be read as a sweet story about a group of children moving through the stages of childhood. It is my hope, however, that this classroom tale will be seen as more than a nice story, that it will be discovered by those who are seeking to revitalize public education. Is it so revolutionary to think that real classroom experience might help shape education policy?
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