Personalized education is not a flavour of the month, we have observed at SMUS. Rather it is the next step in an evolution that began sometime in the past that might be hard to pin down, and which will vary, depending on your perspective and your age, but it isn’t recent. Now that it has been given this name, though, some apprehensiveness has re-arranged the features of many faces that work and live in education. Every individual and body of thinkers on the subject of education (at least every one that I have come across), expresses a view on the form personalization will take, why it is coming in this form, and what it will mean in concrete terms. At SMUS we have borrowed the image of “Molly” to give our thoughts concrete form: Molly is the student at some vague Middle School stage who is starting to make choices based on passions, interests, strengths that lead her down paths of mastery, and skills that are not quite strengths where she will attain merely the level of competence. Molly still remains for us a somewhat ghostly figure that needs fleshing out in coming months and years.
The other side of the coin: in the personalized wave that is coming, and which will be hastened by the liberating capacity of technology, a theme that will be of equal significance will be the answer to the question, “what common experiences should all students have if as part of an excellent education?”
I thought about this question on Wednesday night as I listened to our Large Ensembles Concert. Our Concert Bands, our Senior Choir, our String Orchestra and our Full Orchestra mounted what is becoming a rarer and rarer performance: ensembles of thirty to a hundred students (depending on the ensemble) playing music at a level that is accomplished and enjoyable. Over a hundred students in the Senior Orchestra have this experience of sharing the stage, preparing a piece that is their collective offering, working hard to do so, and tasting the satisfaction of their own music and the audience’s applause. Common experiences are as important as personalized ones as a student grows up, and I feel fortunate that we have such stellar examples.