How Not to Change Schools

Sam Chaltain

The implications for today’s schools are clear: If you are not proactively seeding your own experimental forays into a new way of helping kids learn, and doing so with the understanding that those experiments may one day overtake everything else that you do, then your community is likely standing flat-footed in the face of the biggest changes in education in more than a century.

It’s one thing to create a maker space, provide students with some “genius” time for personal learning, or bring project or inquiry learning opportunities into the classroom. The question is why we’re doing that. Is it because they are the trendy new things that other schools are doing? Is it so we can say that we are “changing” or keeping up with the times? Or because we want to be seen as “innovators”?

Or is it because we believe these things honor more fully the ways in which kids learn most deeply?

That reason is scary, right? Because, as Sam suggests, it means we understand that those new practices aren’t just boxes to check. Instead, they are first steps that “may one day overtake everything else that you do.”

“Experiments” in schools that aren’t driven by beliefs about kids and learning won’t change anything in the long run.

Originally published at on May 19, 2016.

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