Not Your Parents’ School

A call to action for schools and parents to work together to create better learning spaces for students


Today’s schools are nothing like the schools that we ourselves, our parents or grandparents attended, or are they? I remember student teaching in 1995 and spending my spring break creating math manipulatives for a kindergarten class. My father questioned, “Why do kids need all of this just to learn math?”, adding, “When I was in school we just used flashcards to memorize math facts.”


However, the “business” of education can change today, because technology is making individualization of education possible, but is it?  Educational professionals, need to inform the public, particularly parents on how and why. Parents must understand why these changes are so powerful, so they can be the champions of reform in their childrens’ schools  and communities. Parents have a tremendous amount of power to support teachers and schools. Let’s educate ourselves and find ways to share with parents so they have a clearer picture of what they can do.

The animate, RSA Animate Changing Education Paradigms by Sir Ken Robinson clearly explains why little has changed in education. According to the National Forum of Educational Administration & Supervision Journal, “Schools seem to be deteriorating at a faster rate than they can be repaired, and faster than most other public facilities (Lunenburg & Ornstein, 2008).” This is important because beautiful spaces can motivate people to create great works of art, inspire them to make a new scientific discovery, and encourage them to pursue their passions.

Despite difficulties,  there are schools and school districts that are taking learning spaces very seriously and making monumental changes. When looking for examples, I discovered this post, Modern School Interiors, on the Constructing Kids blog . Martin Exner does an excellent job of showing what a school could look like. These videos, Not Old School: Architecture in Support of Learning, Bambini Creativi, Reggio Inspired Preschool-Kansas City, warm my heart and drive me to find ways for all students to have such beautiful spaces for learning.

While I understand that funding is not always available and it is not practical to rebuild all schools today, I do believe that as educators, parents and community members, it is our responsibility to see how we can begin to make changes in our spaces to better support student learning no matter how small. How could something as simple as changing the blocks,  that we use in our schools begin to facilitate this change?


I am proud to work at the  American School Foundation of Mexico City a school with a 125-year history of reinventing itself. We have beautiful, new learning spaces for arts  and athletics and are working at be leaders in environmentally sustainable spaces. I am excited to be a part of the conversation about what changes we will make in the next 125 years or so.

I would love to start the conversation on how we can use what we have to move towards what we need and want. Our kids deserve it. Here are some of my ideas for getting parents involved:

  1. Parent coffees to provide training in modern learning practices

  2. School tours for parents

  3. How can we use parents for crowdsourcing to identify solutions to existing space problems in schools

  4. Look for local examples of great learning spaces and organize tours for parents

  5. Town meetings with librarians and parks and recreation directors to see how public spaces can support learning as well

  6. Invite local media to all events so they can draw attention to the idea of new learning spaces

Please share your examples of great learning spaces and ways to involve parents. I look forward to being inspired.

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