Friday, October 2, 2009

Reflections on a Very Special School

After a hundred and twenty blog posts about today or tomorrow, it's time to reminisce about the past.

In many ways, the most remarkable school I ever witnessed in operation, was Riverview School in Cape Cod, MA. This is a high compliment, because I have attended, worked at, and visited awesome schools. My memories of Riverview are now dated. My son attended a few years ago, so I am not up on the present program first hand. But by all accounts it is as great or greater than when Chris (our son) was an enthusiastic member of the Riverview community.

When Chris entered the post secondary program at Riverview, Rick Lavoie was head of school. Rick is a nationally recognized expert on learning disabilities and two features of his approach to education made very strong impressions.

First, the "social autopsies". When students had experienced a socially perplexing situation, staff at Riverview was trained to conduct a "social autopsy" with the students to sort out the missed social cues or to coach the kids on how they might handle a similar experience, next time. This was certainly an invaluable approach to pupils like Chris, who has autism. But what a great idea for any realm of schooling!

Secondly, and more relevant to this blog was the idea that the entire staff was part of the educational experience of the students. They attended all of Rick's workshops and received training in the educational philosophy of the school. Consequently, the school culture at Riverview hit a visitor the moment he or she set foot on campus, and visiting was a profound experience. From the head of school to the maintenance staff, one encountered the same educational priorities and values.

This is why I keep returning to the idea of school culture in this blog. I'm convinced that meaningful technology integration can only be achieved at a school if every adult in the school plugs into learning networks along with the kids. It does not depend on teaching methods, alone. Surely its essential that teachers buy in, but in a school other staff members can't exempt themselves from modeling the use of transformative technologies. In order to help our students embrace the challenges of the future we need to be all in on these challenges ourselves.

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