Caz Connect Blog

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The last two weekends I spent Saturday watching my son’s football game.  This week the game was played at Excelsior High School and last week at Jamaica College.  Although very different facilities, each athletic field offered me an opportunity to observe elements of a dynamic learning environment supporting student-ownership, shared instructional- facilitation, and active learning.   Educators and schools working toward the integration of 21st century skills can learn from observing and interacting with both athletes and coaches on Jamaican fields.  

As I sat and watched warm-ups and the football match, I could not help but notice all the other activities on the field. The football match was played in the center of the field, however surrounding the field athletes practiced batting for Cricket and coaches worked with javelin throwers.  Track and Field athletes ran around the football pitch implementing a variety of stretches and runs.  There were hurdlers jumping, running, and assessing each other’s performance.  And finally, a number of athletes engaged in a variety of strength training exercises working individually, with a trainer, or with peers.   

As I watched my son’s football game for over 90 minutes, the athletes worked individually, within a small group, and with coaches.  At times, athletes seemed to coach each other, as well as meet in a small group for coach-led discussions or assessed practice drills.  As a spectator,  I tried to concentrate on my son’s game, however I could not help notice the flurry of practice sessions, conferences, and learning situations that were happening in front of me.

As I gazed at the athletic field, it was very obvious that athletes “owned their development- and their learning.”  The old saying “sage on the stage” was not evident on the field. What was evident on the field was the second part of the familiar quote, “guide on the side.”  The common thread that I observed in every activity on the field (even my son’s football match) was the “instructor” guiding the “learner” and the “student” owning his or her learning. 

I’m always looking for dynamic examples of learning environments outside a school-setting, and I didn’t need to look any further than on an athletic field on a Saturday morning at a local Jamaican high school.  The field in front of me mirrored what I believe a 21st century classroom should look like- a combination of whole group instruction, individual lessons, small group activities, student supporting learning with peers, students meeting one-on-one with the instructor, students practicing, students searching for a way to support personal learning and/or self-improvement… and the list goes on and on.

Learning is essential to excelling in athletics.  If I wanted to, I could identify the 4 C’s of 21st century skills: communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity on the field.  I could cite examples and pinpoint occurrences of impactful teaching and learning observed on the field.  On a Saturday morning in Jamaica, the athletic field is a powerful example of active learners engaged in the learning process and the integration of 21st century skills!  

As a school leader, here are my “asks” as we prepare children for their future.   I ask teachers and my colleagues to work toward nurturing classrooms that resemble more of an athletic field on a Saturday morning than a lecture hall at an impressive university.  I ask parents to support a flurry of learning activities, in classrooms, for students at all levels and not accept a “one-size-fits all” approach to learning.  I challenge school leaders to expect classrooms to integrate teachers, peers, and other resources as equal primary instructors.  As a community, we should expect instructional strategies promoting students practicing individually, as well as in small groups or as a large class.  And finally, as a school community, we need to support teachers in their primary role as “guides” and limit their position as a “sage.” 

If you ever have time, stop at a Jamaican athletic field on a Saturday morning and observe the learning environment.  Observe the athletes learning, practicing, and applying skills supporting effective communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity .  Please take time to discover the elements of a 21st century learning environment that meets the needs of students in 2021.  

In many ways, AISK’s classrooms resemble what I discovered on an athletic field in Jamaica.  At AISK, teachers embrace differentiation of instruction, design impactful learning activities, exercise a repertoire of instructional strategies designed for optimum student engagement, and nurtures a future-focused learning environment.  As learners, the AISK community continues the quest to understand a 21st century classroom through research and implementation.  Please join us in this quest… through your expectations, conversations, and trust.  Together, our home-school partnership will prepare children for their future!