Most school communities and leaders say that significant, system-wide change from a traditional to a deeper learning model takes many years. I think we are about to prove that wrong. Thirteen months ago at The Tilton School the entire faculty and staff, most of the board, and a large number of students, came together to begin blue-sky imagining of a very different future, one where every student engages in an authentic, differentiated learning experience driven by their interests, passions, and beliefs…as well as the content and knowledge they need to succeed in the future. The community had doubts, but they pushed on, through expansive thinking, extensive outreach and introspection, design prototyping and re-prototyping, often with an overlay of doubt that we were actually ever going to get to a final product. They put pretty much everything on the table, every element of what we think of as “school”, but one: the non-negotiable of great learning experiences.
Thirteen months later we are on the doorstep of a completely revised, integrated approach to the learning experience at the school. It will involve a new skill set of teacher-student cooperation, teacher and student growth and reflection, and a new understanding of how we assess progress. It won’t click all at once, but the integrated roadmap is close, a roadmap that takes most schools years to complete if, given the vagaries of leadership and market changes, it ever happens at all.
Teacher/mentors are proud when their student-teams jump a higher hurdle than ever before, and the credit is almost all due to the students for putting in the hard work and sticking with a process, even when they are not sure how and why. I feel like one of those proud teacher-mentors, and the feeling is growing as our dream team of mentors grows: Julie Wilson, Bo Adams and MVIFI, and others who will join in the coming year. In just the last two days the Tilton Innovation design team met virtually and shared ideas with Jonathan Martin on new assessment strategies, Thomas Steele-Malley on community expeditionary learning, Laurynn Evans on school-university partnerships, the FoiloCollaborative on tracking teacher and student growth, and superstar students Anya Smith-Roman and Emmy Schaeffer on student-led course creations. We are proving that the two most powerful drivers of innovation are the willingness to take a risk, and networked connectivity with others who share our drive.
Stay tuned for the work product when it is published; keep an eye on the Tilton Experience web page for video evidence of our work; and have greater faith that schools really can fundamentally change in just a few years…when we just work hard, trust each other, confront our fears, open our minds, and believe we can.