Seeing possibilities

January 13, 2011 by JoLynne Lyon

What would happen if teachers looked at students and only saw possibilities?

Maybe you’d get this:

Colorful clay shells dangle from strings in a mobile at Longfellow ElementaryThese colorful shells are part of an enormous mobile hanging at Longfellow Elementary School in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

I saw it because Longfellow is one of many New Mexico schools that will participate in the StartSmart K-3 Plus project, headed up by researchers at the CPD.

All through Longfellow’s halls, elementary school students have left their work for future generations to admire–and “admire” really is the right word. Students made the shells that form this mobile in a school alcove. Like many works of art, it’s flanked by “please don’t touch” signs–in two languages.

Longfellow Elementary is a magnet school specializing in bilingual education and fine arts. Like so many other schools it has its own fuding worries and challenges.  Still, it has clearly moved past the premise I grew up with (the one that assumed speaking a language other than English is a disadvantage). Instead, students are encouraged to gain fluency in two languages and to create in a way that goes far beyond crayons and Elmer’s glue. I didn’t get to see a school play while I was there, but I’m told their drama department is amazing, too.

Now, Longfellow Elementary is entering a new experiment: a study into whether a longer school year will reap academic results for students in Kindergarten through third grade. The study is intended to benefit all children–those who struggle and those who do not.

It should fit well in a place that has historically looked at young children and focused not on what they can’t do, but the beautiful things they can accomplish.

A boy works at the computor in a Kindergarten class at Longfellow Elementary.