"Children learn how to ride a bike because they don’t stop trying and adults don’t give up on them until they are successful. A school district that believes all children learn at different rates and at a different pace, designs a similar system."
By Gerald Hopkins | Superintendent
Kenowa Hills Public Schools
email@example.com | @khpssuper
Hanging in my office is a poster entitled, “The Ever Increasing Burden on American Public Schools,” which highlights the mandates placed on our public schools. I acquired the poster after hearing Jamie Vollmer speak at Kenowa Hills in 2014. Mr. Vollmer’s message is powerful, emphasizing the need to redesign education from selecting and sorting young people, which was its purpose during the industrial age.
The poster includes too many mandates to list, however, not on the list are the responsibilities of public schools to teach a child to ride a bike. Even though we do not teach this to children, there is much that we can learn from the process. We know children learn to ride a bike at different rates, yet our education system organizes children based on their age and most often teaches all students in the class the same material based on a defined time. We wouldn’t expect most children to ride a bike first without training wheels, but the traditional education system commonly attempts to build upon prior learning even when the student hasn’t demonstrated proficiency in the foundational learning. This creates gaps in learning that increase each year.
We also know most children need structures and supports when learning. Like training wheels on a bike, our teachers do an exceptional job providing structure and support through their instruction and we continue to redesign principles that currently lack the structure and support our students need. At times, we’ve taken off the training wheels before our students were ready to ride without them. For example, secondary students have interpreted making time the variable and learning the constant as meaning there are not any deadlines and doing your personal best the first time isn’t essential. After visiting Fraser Public Schools, a school district in Eastern Michigan that is on a similar path towards Personal Mastery, we learned they experienced some of the same change pains. We have ideas to address these concerns without abandoning the principles that are most important to serve our students’ needs.
Children learn how to ride a bike because they don’t stop trying and adults don’t give up on them until they are successful. A school district that believes all children learn at different rates and at a different pace, designs a similar system. I am very proud of the work we have done as a school district to redesign our education system to align with our beliefs, but we too are still learning. Thank you for believing in us and joining us on our journey to Personal Mastery for all students.