Friday, August 21, 2009

Review of Wounded by School written by Kirsten Olson

How many times will we hear the words “school reform” in our lifetime? It seems every year there is another book published that outlines what is wrong with schools and how they need to be fixed. The worst are those that recommend we shut everything down and completely “reboot” the system with something new. The problem with that particular recommendation is the fact that those with the experience to “reboot” our educational system are the very people caught up in the middle of it right now. Without a “change of lifestyle” within the very people who are at the heart of the educational system, no reform can take place. I believe Wounded by School will help teachers, administrators, and most importantly, legislators and the public to begin the process of making this lifestyle change.

For change to occur, first there must be understanding. Olson helps deepen our understanding of the way schools wound different people as well as the ways schools themselves are wounded. Not every wound is the same because not every person is the same. This, I believe, lies at the heart of the reform she very gently introduces. We must not only get to know each individual who comes through our classroom doors, but we must work with those individuals to help each learn according to his or her needs. This is a tall order when faced with 30 or more students in a class. Yet somehow we must develop and learn strategies that embrace different types of learning rather than requiring ALL students to conform to one learning style.

This is a similar message to one that has been preached by others, especially those in brain research. When we will acknowledge that the brain must lead learning, not a set of behaviors, and that each brain we encounter is “wired” differently? This, I believe, and Kirsten Olson believes, is at the heart of why schools wound (often unintentionally) so many of us. She also points out that it is not just students who are wounded, but teachers as well. We are being asked to do a job that is incredibly complex with very little support from the legislators who pass down policy based on an archaic system of learning.

The way Wounded by School differs from other reform books is that instead of recommending a completely new system or “shutting down” schools, Kirsten Olson outlines ways we can begin to heal these wounds. These are not just general suggestions for society at large, either. There is a specific chapter on the process of healing and how it begins, one for parents who heal, teachers who heal, and students healing one another. It is this healing process that is so important to making a lifestyle change in our schools.

As we are healed and work to heal others through our actions and beliefs about learning, we begin to create communities where individuals are cherished. When individuals are cherished for who they are and not who we wish them to be, communities of learning are developed. These are places where students are not just spoon-fed information, but rather are taught HOW to learn. It is this skill combined with a love of the learning process that leads to life-long learning.
I believe that every legislator who creates education bills and votes on these bills should read this book. I believe that every teacher, administrator, and staff member who works with students should read this book. I believe that every parent who is concerned for their child’s welfare should read this book. It is an eye-opening read that lays important groundwork for a grassroots reform of schools and most importantly, learning.

1 comment:

courage collaboration said...

Wow Emma! I just read this perceptive and wonderful review and I can't say how much I appreciate it. It seems like you really "got" the messages of this book. You must be a wonderful teacher and your students are lucky.

Kirsten Olson