Tomorrow night, we find out the fate of our school. A school that has provided a home, a community, and for some kids, a second chance at success in an education system that has failed them. A school that touches nearly every single teaching major in UNI's prestigious College of Education, including 1,000 preservice teachers and 20,000 contact hours each year. A school that believes in innovation in education, quality teacher preparation, and service and outreach to other schools in the state. A school that mentored me into a model where teaching for excellence isn't the ideal, but the expectation. A school that taught me to try new things, constantly reflect on my practice, and listen to my students.
And since the news of UNI's proposed budget cuts broke in the papers last Thursday, it's not the people in charge who have taught me, but the students whose very identity is at stake. Because when the floor is collapsing from under their feet, they don't just sit back and let it crumble. They do something about it. They send tweets to Jason Glass, the Director of the Department of Education, asking questions and voicing concerns. They stay at school on a Friday night until 7:00, creating videos of teacher education students voicing their support for our school. They spend their weekends researching our school and writing a petition - a petition that after just 24 hours, has over 1,000 signatures from supporters all over the world. They partner with a UNI student who decided to change the content of his final lesson on his last day of his field experience to focus on the importance of understanding the First Amendment, giving students an opportunity to voice their concerns, and helping them write letters, comments, and editorials to various naysayers. They wrote letters to University President Ben Allen, telling their own stories of how Price Lab changed them - a student who was so bullied at her first school that their parents feared for her safety; a student who was headed down the path of dropping out at a school that had given up hope, and is now considered one of our leaders; and a student who realizes that his life might look a whole lot different if it wasn't for a school that allowed his single mom the opportunity to attend college and give her kids a good education at the same time.
As I sit here tonight with this pit in my stomach, I sift through the countless comments that have surfaced the last few days and am struck by one of them:
The argument has been presented that there is little need for the Price Lab School because the Lab School is unlike a typical classroom. This argument is being presented at a time when the majority of Americans believe their school system is in a state of failure. Why then, would one advocate training the next generation of teachers in the same system that so many consider to be failing?
One of the strongest arguments for Price Lab School may be that the format is unlike the average school. Experimentation with new teaching methods, technology, and curricular strategies is where many of the educational changes needed for the 21st century are first presented. The majority of successful educational philosophies, strategies, and changes have occurred in lab schools from Pestalozzi to John Dewey and continue in laboratory schools around the world today.
I can think of no stronger way to have an immediate effect on education throughout the entire state of Iowa than giving pre-service teachers a quality experience with innovative and cutting edge curricular strategies that they may immediately take with them to the various schools they will become a part of in the future.
Additionally, I find it admirable that the NU students are brave and bold enough to take a stand and proudly state who they are and give ownership to their comments with their full names. Interestingly, one can contrast that to the many detracting “adults” who hide in anonymity.
I'm so proud of our students and proud of Price Lab School. Although we may not have the support of the people who make the decisions, we have the support of the people who know and have been impacted by our near hundred-year mission.
Help get the word out by signing the following petition. It only takes a second. And if you are a UNI Teaching Grad and have been positively impacted by Price Lab, write to Ben Allen (firstname.lastname@example.org), and share your story and the impact PLS has had on your teaching.
Click here to sign the petition.