If I were to take my guide from The New Zealand Curriculum document, then I would say the purpose of education would be to have 'young people that were confident, connected, actively involved, lifelong learners'.
The learning involved covers four key areas; Values, Key Competencies, Learning Areas and Achievement Objectives.
It is no mistake in my opinion that Values and Key Competencies come before the Learning Areas and Achievement Objects.
If we look at values for moment; excellence, innovation, inquiry, curiosity, diversity, equity, community and participation, ecological sustainability, integrity and respect. These are the foundation of society and are essential to the future of man kind.
So how is this visible in my classroom? Just to be clear, I no longer have my own classroom as I am working within many schools, so my reflection is based on the environment I had when I had my class and on how I would expect things to be if I had my class now.
Excellence: 'Strive to do your personal best' - a mantra often used - I don't expect anything more than personal best and this is celebrated by all.
Inquiry and curiosity is encouraged and opportunities for 'self-study' are made available. I reflect on one occasion when I had a young lad so passionate about bugs that he was encouraged to involve entomology into the other areas of his learning. He built a snail house, became the 'cockroach man' of the school, saving teachers from the terror of this particular creepy crawly daring to enter their rooms. He even organised an expert in the field to visit the class and bring termites - everybody enjoyed his passion, celebrated his successes, learned from him and benefit from the experiences as he recruited helpers and made presentations. The real 'kicker :0)' - this same boy was/is severely dyslexic with low self esteem and was able to 'shine' and earn respect from his peers.
Diversity and Equity: everyone is celebrated and encouraged to share who they are. Learning styles are catered for and shared so everyone understands. At the beginning of any school year I conduct a series of self assessments that inform the children and myself the best ways they learn (these include the learning smarts, dyslexia and SPELD). These are graphed and put up on the wall so everyone can share their unique talents and abilities and connect with others with similar learning styles. A lot of this practice comes from the teachings of Mike Scadden and his research in this area. I remember one year when the outcomes of the learning smarts indicated that I had a class of 80% music learners (which I am not) - this prompted the development of my first website where I put as much musical supportive material online that I could find to support the topics and learning areas in our classroom programme. The results? A highly autistic boy in my class that I had much trouble assessing learning outcomes and was not sure what he was 'taking in', had listened to the songs repeatedly and one day during a school assembly where a visiting band was playing, he sat on my lap and started telling me all about the water cycle in detail, how to add numbers together and what the others were doing in their independent inquiries. I just wish I had a recording device at the time to capture it all. A truly awesome experience.
Community and participation: Society relies on communication and application - how better to bring this about than working with others and developing these necessary skills. In group situations my students are expected to contribute fully, everybody has a job to do.
Ecological sustainability: through a classroom vege patch, bokashi composting, river clean-up and enforcing a clean, hygenic classroom and school, children become involved in their environment and take responsibility for caring for it. It's pretty cool when you see your students get upset when they find or see someone else being disrespectful or harmful to THEIR environment.
Integrity and respect: 'Fair not the truth' (what I lived under at my first primary school growing up and continue to live by). I use restorative practice in class and out in the playground. This gives students an opportunity to reflect on their actions and 'fix' any wrongs they may have done. It provides an opportunity for all parties to express their issues and collaboratively agree on what should happen moving forward. The students are shown respect and for the most part they show it back as a result.
It turns out that this is very big statement to unpack. I will be back to complete this later...