October Newsletter: What makes a great education?
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What does a great education look like?
LPTM's vision for powerful, sustained learning
Dear Wonderful Life Pieces Family,
Every child deserves a great education.
We're not the first to point that out, and we certainly won't be the last - it would be hard to think of a less controversial statement to make. Just about everyone, regardless of their other ideals and political beliefs, agrees that we owe all students a fair shot through great learning opportunities.
But that vision is still far from reality. The unfortunate truth for many students is that their zip codes and their backgrounds determine the quality of classroom they enter and, accordingly, what opportunities they are afforded throughout their lives.
So where does that gap come from? How is it that the one thing we can all agree on - every child's right to a great education - continues to prove so hard to achieve? At Life Pieces, we believe that answering that question requires first asking two others:
What does a great education look like?
And what does it take to make that great education the standard for all students, regardless of background
Disagreement over how to respond to these two questions is where the heated debate, the tension, and ultimately the continued inequity of our school system originate.
Most of the discussion and debate we hear around education reform focuses on that second question. What are the best strategies to improve schools? Do we need more teachers? Higher standards? Less centralization? More community involvement? More tests? Fewer tests? More resources, or better use of current resources? Should we focus on public schools, charter schools, or both? Should we increase choice over which schools students can attend, or should we ensure students attend their neighborhood schools?
All of these difficult questions deserve attention and have a large impact on the daily learning experience of our young people. However, we believe that one of the reasons that creating an excellent and equitable school system continues to prove such a challenge is that not enough attention is given to that first question: what does it mean to receive a great education, anyway? We can't create great policies, strategies, and schools if we don't first create a powerful shared vision.
At Life Pieces To Masterpieces, we spend every day thinking about that first question, and we let our answers guide the programs, strategies, and activities we create. We believe this is what has allowed us to grow, thrive, and lead over the course of 18 years, five presidential elections, and countless educational policy changes and reforms.
We believe there are many ways to put an excellent education into practice - as long as those tactics are rooted in a philosophy that understands, values, and honors the unique brilliance of each learner. Here are some of the values and beliefs that have guided us and helped us lead the way in black male education:
A great education is about human development.
Our Human Development System forms the core of everything we do. We believe the primary goal of any educational or learning process should be the holistic development of the learner. This means helping them to build strong identities, understand their relation to those around them, and develop a sense of their power to shape their own destiny and to transform their communities. It means investing heavily in social/emotional learning and other skills that will allow youth to apply all the lessons they learn with compassion and purpose.
A great education requires love, security, and expression.
The space where learning takes place matters. To be open to new information, students must know that those around them genuinely love and care for them; they must know that they are physically and emotionally safe; and they must have space to express themselves and their identities. Effective educators must put at least as much thought, preparation , and energy into creating and maintaining a positive learning environment as they do into developing lesson plans and curricula.
A great education is fun!
We should never forget the power of fun to drive learning. We believe that any educational approach that doesn't make space for joy and celebration is, quite simply, doing it wrong. Success should be celebrated, and failing should be an opportunity to laugh and try again. We engage our young men's need for fun, excitement, and play throughout the learning process, and as a result we develop eager, hard-working, and life-long scholars.
A great education engages creativity.
We all know that feeling - when our energy bubbles up with a new idea, or when an answer that had eluded us clicks into place. That's the feeling of creativity fueling our learning, and we make that energy the center of our lessons. Every child has their own set of skills and talents that will bring forward that creative spark. It's our job as educators to find it and make space for it, because creative energy not only improves the learning process but can also sustain us throughout our lives when we face challenges.
This is the vision of education that fuels us every day. You will see throughout the newsletter how we put these ideas into practice to create a truly transformative space of learning and exploration. Thank you for being a part of our mission to bring this great education to the young men of Washington, DC and beyond!
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