What's In The Field Guide?
"A Teacher’s Handbook"
This is the theory and practice of a transformative approach to education. Field tested over many years in dozens of classrooms in virtually every discipline and academic level, the techniques described here can be adapted to any situation.
The first chapter, “A New Direction”, lays out the fundamental philosophy that serves as a bedrock for everything you will read here. The rest of the book explores how this philosophy can be put into practice. It describes practical classroom strategies, why they are important, and how they can be implemented.
Throughout this book, you will find links to a range of supplemental materials in the right-hand margin. These include stories excerpted from "This Changes Everything", reflective letters from students and teachers, video clips, blog posts, and related quotes from external sources.
Here, then, is a rich, multifaceted tool exploring a new educational paradigm, one that I believe can transform any teacher’s practice and the lives of her students.
"This Changes Everything"
This book supplements "A Teacher's Handbook" with the narrative of educational transformation in my classes and those of many teachers I have worked with. It contains conversations and stories about students and teachers in the process of changing the very foundations of what we do in school and why we do it.
It also contains the words of the students themselves. At the end of every year, I had students write a reflective letter about their experiences in my classes, and how they were affected by these experiences. Their letters contain insights into their world that are remarkably insightful, often poignant, and useful in thinking about your practice.
This book has been written for teachers, administrators, parents, and anyone else who cares about education. It is intended to show this new approach through the lives and the words of real people.
Navigating the books
Selecting either book from the Welcome Page or the top menu jumps to a table of contents that lists the chapters of each book. Selecting a chapter allows you to read it in its entirety. You can also jump to any section within the chapter by moving the cursor over the menu located on the right-hand edge of the page. There is also a detailed table of contents for “A Teacher’s Handbook” that allows you to jump directly to any section within any chapter.
In the top menu under "Resources", you will find a wide range of useful material for all readers. "Tools for Teachers" is an extensive library of classroom structures and strategies designed to promote meaningful change. Some of these I developed in my own classes, while others have been contributed by teachers I have worked with as a consultant.
You will also find a library of video clips I have compiled depicting students at work in my own classroom and in those of other teachers, as well as scenes from workshops and presentations, and clips of students and teachers speaking directly about their experiences. Both the Tools for Teachers and video clips are woven throughout "A Teacher’s Handbook" as sidebar links.
Other resources include a glossary of terms used throughout this website; and links to an extensive list of educational books and websites. It also has a collection of testimonials by students and teachers in both print and video formats.
In addition to these tools, there are links to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube to broaden a network of like-minded people and offer a platform for ongoing conversations and exploration of the ideas presented here. I invite you to participate in any or all of the above.
Throughout both books, you will find photographs decorating the title of every section. These are all from my travels, and include images from the coast of California, the Alaskan arctic, Tuscany, the Chicago Botanic Garden, Lake Como, the Florida Everglades, northern Germany, New York's Central Park, the Swiss Alps, Lake Michigan, Paris, my back yard and a number of other places. These photos are included simply to provide a little beauty while you are exploring the site. I hope you enjoy them.
how to use the field guide
How you approach this website will depend on who you are and what you intend to get out of it. Here are some recommendations for optimizing your experience.
Unless you are familiar with the philosophy at the heart of this approach to education, (and perhaps even if you are), you should start by reading “A New Direction”, the first chapter of "A Teacher’s Handbook". It lays out the bedrock beliefs that are the basis for everything you will find in this site. For teachers, implementing the strategies and classroom structures recommended in this book requires challenging some widely held, but generally unspoken, beliefs about the very purpose of school. Before you can truly make sense of the classroom strategies and structures you will throughout this site, it is essential to understand the fundamental philosophy on which they are based.
You may wish to explore this philosophy further in two chapters from "This Changes Everything"; “Why Students Don’t Learn: The Nature of Doing School”, and “Unexamined Beliefs, Unintended Consequences”.
For teachers, the remaining chapters of "A Teacher’s Handbook" will provide you with the theory and the mechanics of implementing the ideas presented in this website.
"This Changes Everything" is intended for anyone who cares about school and is interested in exploring a truly innovative approach. Teachers may find it useful in developing a sense of the language they need to talk to students about these ideas. They can also explore some of the problems they may encounter when implementing this approach and the solutions to those problems.
Teachers and non-teachers alike may find of interest the resources provided in the top menu, as described above. In particular, the videos can help establish the reality of this approach in a way that reading about them may not. There are also links to a number of excellent educational websites and a list of useful and stimulating books on related subjects.
Finally, it is my hope that readers of this site will use it to become engaged with the material and with each other. The various means of getting connected are shown in the footers at the bottom of each page. These include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and signing up to an RSS feed of the blog.