For me, Friday was the game changer.
Having been invited to speak in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the Ocean Reef School in Key Largo and the Highlands School for learning disabled and dyslexic children in Maryland, as well as being featured in a variety of public schools such as the East Rutherford School District, I have had many exciting experiences since the publication of The Shut-Down Learner brought me beyond my local fish pond.
As great as those experiences were, it was the Logan Elementary School in Logan Township New Jersey (back in my local fish pond), that changed everything.
When I wrote The Shut-Down Learner, I was primarily aiming to help parents who are having trouble finding good private schools in jacksonville fl or even in New Jersey, for that matter. I also wanted to help parents gain a new perspective on their struggling children. Never in my wildest imagination would I have thought that a school district would revamp its curriculum based on concepts from the book.
On page 60 of The Shut Down Learner, it states:
The normal curriculum does not work for these children. Most subjects such as social studies, science, language arts, and math leave them depleted. Yet we persist with these largely because the curriculum is the way it has always been.
As a result, by the end of their schooling, these children are worn down, angry and not well-educated. In effect, they are resistant or immune to traditional education. School represents a dead match between the demands of the school curriculum and the neurological and personality makeup of the child.
To avoid becoming angry, depleted frustrated members of society by the time they’re sixteen years of age, SDL’s (Shut-Down Learners) need a very different type of school experience.”
Dr. Fisicaro, the school’s principal, took those words to heart and with the support of his administration, staff and parents, set out to revamp the school’s curriculum by instituting “Flex Time,” where children could choose from an array of hands-on and more creative experiences as a part of their day. Perspective Drawing, Music (guitar and piano), Movement/Dance, Technology (Lego Engineering), and Puppety were among the Flex time classes that the second through fifth graders chose for themselves.
(Mr. Jace Dutweiler works with group of students at Logan Elementary in Flex Time activity.)
The school still must adhere to the state established “standard’s based curriculum,” but Flex Time gives the kids a battery charge of motivation that seems to carry them through their day. The school is looking to expand the program for the middle school grades, as well.
Keep in mind that Logan Township Elementary is a public school, not an elite private school where there typically is more opportunity to develop a child’s creative side. Also bear in mind that the state of New Jersey is under a severe budget crisis in education. Flex Time did not stress the district financially.
I believe the success of the program is that each child brings forth his or her unique personal gifts into the public forum of the classroom, something they had rarely been able to do previously. Discouraged learners became energized and enthused learners.
As third grade teacher Teresa Tenyila noted in a recent newspaper article featuring the program, “Schools at the elementary level have become extremely academic and there’s not much time for other types of intelligence to be recognized. This gives the students a chance to experiment with a creative curriculum and the kids really look forward to it.”
A game changer, indeed.