Imagination in Schools – But Not For Teachers

MiddleWeb, an excellent site that deals with reform in middle schools, has published a great essay on imagination (or more the lack of it) in schools. The writer is Hayes Mizell, an activist for changing middle schools, which are still seen by too many as "junior" high schools rather than as the bridge between the elementary grades and high school.

The essay is rather long but here are a couple of selections I especially like.

But if we are honest about the cultures of most schools and most school systems, they downplay imagination, particularly among adults. Schools and school systems do not encourage teachers and administrators to form, as the dictionary definition states, "a mental image of something..never before wholly perceived in reality." If anything, schools are mired in reality.

Teachers and administrators will never unleash their imaginations unless it is safe for them to do so. Schools may delight in students’ poems, science projects, essays, and art that are the products of youthful imaginations. Schools may even relish the imaginative pedagogy of a few highly effective teachers, even though most schools do nothing to help other teachers become more effective by making greater use of their imaginations. But when it comes to the schools’ governance, management, structure, curricula, assessment and professional development, there is less enthusiasm for imagination. Perhaps this is because schools fear there will be imagination run amok, with so many competing ideas for reform that it will breed conflict. However, most schools are far from becoming cauldrons of bubbling imagination.

I dare say that the administration – and faculty – in most schools I’ve worked with would only tolerate a few teachers with "imaginative pedagogy".