Traditional school, the method of teaching and learning that most of us grew up with has been getting a lot of heat lately. We are questioning how effective the teacher as the expert, rote memorization and quiet, still worksheet work is.
I observed a traditional school’s classroom for one day during which the school’s administration frequently mentioned that the student desks were arranged in non-traditional groups of four. This, they inferred, is evidence for parents that this traditional school is progressive. Watch the students and teachers closely, however, and the desk configuration is actually a hindrance in this environment. Students are required to listen and then do their work quietly but because they were close to their friends they kidded around and talked getting reprimands from the teacher, once even threatened that if they didn’t quiet down recess would be taken away.
The desk configuration from classroom-style seating to group seating is only a superficial change and in this case, not a strategic change. The school’s goals are much the same as they have been for the last 80 years.
There are many different styles of new schools: Montisorri, Waldorf, Goddard and more. Not just private schools, many progressive public schools are experimenting with fundamentally new styles of learning. This is education reimagined. Imagine my surprise, during a day of classroom shadowing at one Waldorf public school, to see the desks set up in the traditional classroom style. However, two minutes into the school day which opened with the teacher welcoming each student individually followed by singing, dance and stories, I knew that this was learning like I had never seen before.
The desk configuration and the look of the classrooms was not as different as I expected but the goal they seek and the strategies they use to achieve that goal are very different from what I grew up with.
The traditional school that hoped to look like a progressive school is just employing a new look wrapping the same old methods. But this Waldorf public school is truly, fundamentally, seismically different, hopefully, in all the ways that count.
Associations that are reinventing themselves through a rebranding effort have this challenge as well. We can rename ourselves and apply a new look and if we call it quits there, nothing will have been achieved.
Or we can rebrand by developing a new vision and strategy with a heavy emphasis on member-centric innovation. The name, the tagline, and the look serve to only reinforce the new strategy. The aesthetic elements are not the end of themselves. Rebranding projects are most effective when they fundamentally change the association from the inside out.