CCE staff and partner reflections on our collaborative work to create schools where learning is engaging and rewarding, and every student is set up for success.
Three Things I Would Add to My Education
I recently reached an important milestone. I completed my formal education (at least for the foreseeable future). Though I may never again find myself rushing to class, spending hours in the library writing a research paper, or staying up late to finish all of the assigned reading, I know that in many ways my education is far from complete.
As I wrapped up my graduate studies, I also spent the semester interning with the District and School Design team at CCE. As I collaborated on the development of the team’s Innovating for Equity Toolkit, I was able to increase my knowledge and understanding of school transformations, through the lens of an innovative AND equitable approach. Over the past couple months, this internship gave me the opportunity to continually reflect on my many years in school.
As I think about my education, certain aspects have struck me as particularly important. Yet I have also realized that there are vital components of a well-rounded education that I wish I had more exposure to. If I could go back in time and redo my education, I would be sure to incorporate the following components.
Greater applicability of coursework outside the classroom
One of the first times that I truly remember loving what I was learning was when I was studying abroad in the Dominican Republic. I was in a service-learning program in which all of our classes were directly tied to an internship that we held throughout the semester. Virtually every assignment we were given related to our internships, ranging from developing a program that the organization could implement, to researching grants to which the organization could apply. The semester concluded with a research project on a topic of the organization’s choice.
That semester brought everything to life for me, and for the first time going to class and working on assignments no longer felt like something I had to do, but rather something that I wanted to do. Reflecting back on my education, I wish I could have had more opportunities like this, where I could apply what I was learning in the classroom to the world around me.
More opportunities to have a say in what and how I learn
It was not until graduate school that I felt that I really gained the freedom to choose topics for papers and research that I was passionate about. Nor do I really ever remember being given the opportunity to decide how I wanted to learn a topic or present my understanding of the material. As I gained familiarity with personalized learning throughout this internship, it became something that I wished I had experienced more throughout my education. I would have liked to have been given the opportunity to present work in alternative forms, to develop my creative side and to gain the opportunity to develop skills helpful for achieving success in the twenty-first century.
Greater priority given to students’ vision and priorities while in schools
As I learned more about CCE’s Innovating for Equity Toolkit, and drafted case studies about schools undergoing transformation, I saw many examples of student’s voices being central components to school transformation and redesigns. Learning the ways that schools worked to assure that students had a say in what their schools looked like, from a student’s prospective, made me wish that my classmates and I had more opportunities like that. For example, reflecting back on my education I wish I had been asked the question, “What should graduates of our school know and be able to do?” (from the toolkit’s Phase 2, step 4). By asking students questions like this one, schools have the opportunity to tailor their vision and priorities to align with the aspirations of their students.
Interning with the District and School Design team this semester gave me the opportunity to look back on my own education from vantage points I had not considered before. Though I have always felt that my educational experience was very positive, I now know and realize some areas that could have been improved upon. The progressive ideas that I have learned about throughout this semester have shown me that education may now be changing for the better.