Who in the educational community would prompt you to jump on an airplane, and spend the time and money just for the chance to hang out for a day of learning? Maybe I am selfish, but the answer for me is “I love you all, but not many”. When I knew John Hunter would be in Northern California, I cashed in the Southwest points without a second thought.
John and Jamie Baker of the Martin Institute have been touring the country this summer giving master teaching classes based on John’s groundbreaking World Peace Game. This session was co-hosted by the relatively new Center for Teaching Excellence at Hillbrook School in Los Gatos. As most of you who are reading this know, if there is a rock star of innovative education in America it is John, except John’s personality is more that of Mohandas Ghandi than Mick Jagger.
I won’t try to reprise the lessons of the day, but here are a few observations, both from the formal session and from the long chat that John and I had 1:1 afterwards (yeah, that was a treat!).
The World Peace Game is a remarkable symphony that John has created over almost 30 years. He has a book coming out soon; he is meeting with design thinkers and other visionaries to think about how to leverage the game; and the Pentagon put out the red carpet for he and his student-learners. But the real power is in the learning elements that underlie the fantastic stew of the game itself. The experience instills in the students the confidence and skill set to successfully address and solve ridiculously complex, real world problems. Bottom line: they leave with a mindset and toolkit to tackle problems that neither they nor we can even predict. In other words, they are the self-evolving learners that I believe should be the core goal of K-12 education. Tomorrow, the dozen teachers in the class will extrapolate the back story of the WP Game to create curriculum of their own, and based on the record of other classes this summer, the outputs of that exercise will be equally groundbreaking.
In our talk after the meetings I queried John on his views about why one school or district can adopt truly innovative practices while others shy away. He credits support for innovation at every level, from the superintendent (Pam Moran in his case) to the janitor and food service workers. He puts it simply: some people understand that all of life involves risk and create conditions where we are willing to try new things with no guarantee of success, and others are not.
John has built a Game that is unique to him, but that does not mean the lessons are unique to him. This is very clearly exportable to many, many classrooms. John is a rock star, but he is sharing his music, almost for free. It is up to us wannabees (absolutely NOTHING wrong with being a wannabee of a transformational teacher) to listen to the tune and start writing our own songs.