If You Build It…

The one constant through all the years … has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past… It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. –Terence Mann, Field of Dreams

With no disrespect to the Mariners or the Athletics or to the Marlins or the Cardinals, but today is Opening Day.  Baseball season begins anew today.  When baseball season opens, fans across the country as filled with hope because just like the outfield grass or the chalk line down the base paths, everything is fresh.  Everything is new.  For these fans, there are no wins and losses, there’s only hope and dreams left to fulfill.  There’s promise.

The disappointments of seasons past are distant memories because every season starts with a blank slate.  Baseball, not just season to season, but from its nineteenth century origins has reinvented itself time and again, just like Mann’s “blackboard.”

This, of course, got me thinking about schools.

Like baseball, our concept of school is rooted in the nineteenth century, back to the days of the one room schoolhouse.  Students sitting in rows, eyes trained on the teacher who is firmly entrenched at the front of the room.  The teacher, master of content, disseminating information to eager students. The classroom begins and ends at the classroom door.  Baseball has been “rebuilt and erased again.”  Can schools?

Of course, they can.  I am hopeful because I believe in schools, I believe in teachers and I believe in students.  I believe schools can reinvent themselves to meet the challenge of our changing times.

In schools and districts, all over the country this reinvention, this shift, this revolution is happening.   Is it happening fast enough?  We live in a new and ever-changing world where the teacher no longer needs to control and disseminate information.  We live in a world where the classroom does not end at the door but rather at the limits of our students’ grasp and imagination. The information is out there for our students to harness its power.

Our schools can truly be “fields of dreams.”  Students and teachers are practicing skills needed for the twenty-first century.   Schools are fostering programs that allow students to be creative and to collaborate, to think critically to and solve problems.  These skills are not about technology, they’re about learning.

It’s not enough to through an iPad or a laptop at a student and claim that our students are twenty-first century grand slam hitters.  These high-tech tools must enhance learning while promoting these twenty-first century skills.  Whether students are using Google Docs to collaborate or blogging to be creative or Tweeting out their critical thoughts or connecting with minds around the world to solve problems, our schools are getting there.

Getting there quickly enough?  Well, that’s another matter.  After all, the twenty-first century is already into its twelfth year, so let’s keep building.  There’s promise, so much promise.

Play ball!