Friday, October 3, 2014

London: A mixed bag of education

5am wake-up.. quick shuttle to Finnish airport... 3 hour flight to London... made a huge decision to hit the "check available seats" button at the check-in kiosk. Got the last window seat available in the last row with no-one in between me and aisle seat person. This was a small victory.

Shuttle from airport in London to hotel took nearly 1 hour and 30 minutes yet was only 20 miles away. As our guide pointed out, "the traffic in London is hideous." He was right.

Hotel rooms are extremely small. Wifi is slow and I need to buy yet another phone charger adapter because European outlets are so very different and less powerful then ours.

The schools we visited and the Department of Education in London:

Saw three very different schools:

  • one high poverty urban charter high school
  • one K-6 urban public school 
  • arguably the most elite private school in the country 
The inequalities in London schools was striking. 

Evelyn Grace Academy

This charter school in Brixton; one of the poorest and highest crimes areas in London does have an very impressive charter school going for it.

We were greeted by the staff here and given high school students as guides who were some of the most articulate young people I have met in a long time. 

The biggest take away here was the painted and stenciled statements I saw throughout the building. I was wondering if these statements plastered everywhere actually had a daily affect on students and if the staff were really behind them. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that the student who took me around let me know that these statements all work to enhance the administration's effort to push forward 4 common values they look to instill in students upon graduation: integrity, responsibility, accountability, and perseverance. 

The lightbulb moment for me was the fact that we work very hard on mission statements and goals for admin and teachers but what goals do the students we have for themselves. Imagine we had some specific statements plastered everywhere: in the lunchroom, on the way up to the 3rd floor, outside the gym, etc... that pushed the goals we want for our students. This is something I hope we can discuss more when we update our interior in blue and gold everywhere.

Here are some examples of the environment at Evelyn Grace Academy:

Statements like this posted throughout the school help to remind students of the larger goals of the school beyond just testing and grades. 

This was a device that read students fingerprints and let them know what they had in their school accounts for lunch. 

Student posters like this are strewn about the school. These are much like the ones we did for PAC night. This is a great concept to expand upon. 

I will discuss the other two schools we saw tomorrow along with my visit to the Department of Education and a very good debate we had between two of the top educational thinkers in the UK.

As a precursor here is a picture I took in the chamber at the most elite private school in England. This is my best impression of Winston Churchill who attended here. Same room they filmed parts of Harry Potter.

A striking resemblance. I don't know if that's a good thing. 
Feel free to insert joke in comments section! 

Thanks for reading! Enjoy your weekend! 

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