Volume:5, Issue: 3

Aug. 15, 2013

A Conceptual Manifesto of "Our New Schools"
Lizinsky, Vladimir M. [about]

KEY WORDS:  a new school, different educational environments, criteria for success, a perfect school for children and teachers.
ABSTRACT: A famous Russian educator, publisher and innovative thinker offers his own ideal and concept of a new school which will best serve the interest of present-day students and which will prepare a valuable and creative next generation for the country. The paper identifies the main educational environments and criteria for success of such an ideal school. This article is the first in a series of Lizinsky’s ideas on creating the type of school that he feels his homeland needs.


What should “our new school” look like?

Keeping in mind the key descriptive word (ideal) for any “presentation of an ideal,” then a description of “our new school” should start with the belief that it should be a school where respectful treatment of the moral, spiritual, mental, and physical health of all its inhabitants is always placed foremost. This school will be a place where the best of conditions are created for the development, creativity, and productive activities of all its students. It is an institution where the best ideas for instruction are based on a full understanding of the essence of the comprehension process. It will have no connection to the perpetual squeezing of the juices of rote memory that has been all too common a feature of our past. This new school is a place of tolerance soaked through with the spirits of freedom and democracy.

“Our new school” will not commit the “sin” of substituting itself for parents in the formation and education of children. No! It will be just the opposite. The new school will collaborate and coordinate with parents from all walks of life to form a model and aesthetic for the lives of their children. As a matter of fact, in this school, parents will be members of the educational “collective” working together for the good of their children.  During the entire course of their child’s school life, they will help to discover his/her needs, requirements, wishes, and talents together with the school. This will result in the children studying and learning and being so proud of this school that they will graduate and eventually bring their own children and grandchildren to study here.

This will be a school where the educators will want to prepare their very own pupils to replace them straight from the completion of their schooling. The quality and continual development of this school will reveal to all the dual realities of excellent students taught by excellent teachers.

Development will be an on-going phenomenon of the school’s pedagogical atmosphere. It will be a psychologically positive space and a happy atmosphere for children where a spirit of optimism and joy builds positive perceptions and attitudes toward the world, nature, people, and the children themselves.

Those who work in “our new school” and each person or group affiliated with it must help to create six educational environments. These are:

  1. A recognizable, intelligent and understanding, learning atmosphere. This would obviously have to be a studious, scientific, and research-based environment that might include: a center for supplementing study and scientific research; an evening school (free or on a commercial basis); preparatory courses in the sciences; a center for project activities; a computer technology laboratory; an academy for various aged students including parents; a science club for students; and training groups preparing select students for competitions and contests.
  2. An environment conducive to the development of cultural and creative arts activities. This assumes that the school will provide opportunities for recreation, creative studies, clubs, a center for supplementing education as well as workshops for creative and other types of projects. There should be an on-going conversation about creative initiatives involving a variety of viewpoints and diverse forms of humanitarian activities for the children and teenagers who attend this school.
  3. A sports or physical fitness environment. Space is needed for sports teams and clubs. This presupposes a gym and perhaps other venues like a stadium, a running track, a skating rink, a racetrack, a playground, and a swimming pool. Parents should be involved in all of these so that they too can benefit from fitness knowledge and opportunities along with their children especially in activities like hiking, local history excursions and in the formation of school sports teams as well as in the creation and management of a sports “complex” like that suggested above.
  4. A facility that is aware of and in conformity with nature. Such a school would certainly have: an ecology club; a protected bit of forest; a flower garden; vegetable and fruit garden; a sunroom or “Winter Garden”; or a plant corner and local hero “Hall of Fame.” Outside, the building(s) would have tree-shaded paths with benches sculptures, grottoes, perhaps a gold fish pond, or a Japanese garden, or fountains with running water supplied by a small pump. Inside and out, the school would be a “green world” with biology interest-stations to stimulate the interest and imagination of students and parents alike.
  5. An atmosphere that stimulates student interest in occupations and professions. “Our new school” should become a center for economic, business, vocational and professional occupational education where local and regional business and professional people, parents and of course, the students themselves, can find information on topics of interest necessary to their productive futures. Among the resources available should be materials and methods for achieving careers in the fields of economics, business, marketing as managers, administrators, programmers, website designers, florists, nurses, doctors, accountants, editors, culinary specialists, script writers, directors, producers of mass entertainment activities, car/truck drivers, mechanics, technical and mechanical repair specialists, and the like. This could be accomplished by creating a “center for professional and occupational activities.” Here, students of the secondary school would receive help in clarifying their passions, partialities, and preferences as well as their talents through agreements with the Volunteer Society for Cooperation with the Army, Air Force, and Navy (Russian name: DOSAAF), with professional organizations in cooperation with parents and all the available school and service organizations of the region so that they may successfully find for themselves a suitable career from among contemporary professions and vocations.
  6.  A place for socialization activities. The purpose of socialization being to make one fit for living among others, then some area within the school must be dedicated to this purpose. This should be a place for student independent and self-directed activities. It must be open enough to provide for democratically oriented participation of all members of the school’s child population and teen “collective” groups as they participate in the business of managing and directing the school. These types of activities, through the participation of all, have the potential to bring new and healthy initiatives to the business of running the school.

All of the fields described above will assist each child to find his/her own individual and wonderful interests and potential through a process of logical examination during the course of school life.

The school should refrain from the temptation to gather to itself the greatest possible accumulation of resources solely for the purpose of becoming “an institution that has it all.”  It is realistic in its own capacities.

In “our new school” an invariant or core curriculum is ‘ordered’ by the state but the rest of the curriculum is provided in accordance with the desires of the families and students themselves. This new school will be a school of integrated opportunities of the whole society based on the needs, requirements, and interests of children. It teaches students with an awareness of their gender related and individual characteristics. It combines the pedagogy of “big projects” with individualized cognitive activities creating individualized programs of learning that constitute the trajectory for all students’ developmental activities.

Our new school will be a luminous essence and model powered by love and respect. The teachers and their pupils will set their own goals and determine the means of reaching them. Moral improvement will be part of those goals. Through its daily and special activities, one will recognize love, truth, virtue, and respect at all times. 

This will be a school where the important work of teaching and learning will not be deterred by unnecessary meetings, conferences, and other activities that do not assist the staff and students in the analysis of their needs and the creation of methods for improvement.

Since this school exists at the present moment of our nation’s history, it will teach children love and appreciate the past and work happily to ensure a bright future. To this end, the self-improvement of the teaching staff and the development of their distinctive natural and acquired abilities are vital to the overall health of the school community. It is imperative that their personalities are attractive and that their talents and avocations be of value to the children. The diversity of the staff will bring value to the school. One may be a poet while another writes songs or articles. Still another teacher may be a chess master, another a crossword puzzle enthusiast, a third a remarkable storyteller. Whether they are collectors, hiking and field trip leaders, sports enthusiasts or amateur ecologists, local historians or humorists, their enthusiasms will form a part of the school culture and help create its own unique personality. The students will be the beneficiaries of our new school’s culture.

Each child should have favorite subjects, dearly loved teachers, memorable experiences from this school that allowed them to ask questions, work on long-term and fascinating problems, and assisted them to overcome obstacles and difficulties. They should come to the school on the first day of each school year with joy in their hearts and keep that joy until their graduation at which time they will leave our school with the fondest of memories. They will leave behind a school principal who is everybody’s pride, since he/she is more knowledgeable than anyone else, could envision the future, who respected the students, wishing them success and happiness in their lives as they moved out into the world.

This new school provides each child with the opportunity and support to be victorious on his/her chosen path. Entering students will be proud to join this educational enterprise because they will come to understand and love its traditions, the honor accorded its teachers, the acceptance of their fellow students, and the success that all who work hard achieve. Emphasis in this school will not be solely on “test-taking” or preparation for the Unified State Exam (in Russian: Единый государственный экзамен, ЕГЭ) for this school recognizes this exam as only secondary to real education and formation. Eugene Yamburg, a famous Russian educator and Moscow school principal, once put it wonderfully when he said, “To coach and train the young for the Unified State Exam is something that any fine teacher can do outside of school hours within half a year. Give childhood back to our children. School time should be used for the business of teaching and learning respect for others, finding truth, and accumulating and polishing the skills to serve the others in the future.”

Our school curriculum should be directed toward the socialization of children. Our business is to impart to them the skills and form in them the characteristics necessary to allow them to live in and successfully associate with the larger world. Then they will not only live and associate in society but they will consciously take active and creative roles that will ennoble not only their own lives but the lives of all.

Most of all, our school, its principal, and its staff must be free from mocking parasites like a “guardianship mentality” or other kinds of brutal chains that bind most institutions.

Therefore, the criteria for the success of “our new school” should be:

  1. The presence, form, and quality of the six school environments described above.
  2. A system that ensures the legal, informational, socio-economic, psychological, and medical security for the teachers.
  3. A guarantee of safety for the children.
  4.  A quality of educational services that satisfies the students and their parents.
  5. The presence of a system of academic and extracurricular activities provided through the creation of centers for studies and for the pursuit of a wide variety of children’s interests and needs.
  6. Evidence of the academic and creative success of the school’s students and staff along with indications of institutional growth and excellence.
  7. Participation of democratically elected parents and family members in the management of the school’s academic and business affairs.
  8. The presence of a diagnostic plan of protection for the health of the children and teachers.
  9. The creation of high-quality learning opportunities for teachers, students and parents.
  10. Yearly, the school administration and academic leadership will come before the school community of elected, upper-grade student representatives, parents and teachers for the purpose of reporting on the school’s progress and to set forth goals and objectives for the next academic year. The leadership’s recommendations should follow thorough discussion and should prioritize items on a scale of 1-10. If the report gathers less than 70-90% support when the audience is polled, a commission should be created to draw up measures necessary for the correction of problems or for working up new projects along with a plan for carrying out the new plans. These should be brought forward at a later meeting for discussion and a vote.

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