We are continuing our Q&A sessions with our Administrative Team – This week’s session is with our new PYP Coordinator Jason Davis.
1. Who are you and how did you get to SLLIS?
It all started in fifth grade when I spun a globe, announced that the country under which my finger landed would be the first country I would live in. Coincidentally (?), eleven years later I found myself abroad for the first time in New Zealand finishing my student teaching. After backpacking down under and returning home, the first words out of my mouth were “I need to get back out there”. So, I realized the privilege of having become an English teacher and the potential for it to take me just about anywhere. I have spent the last decade traveling and teaching. My adopted cultures now include Kiwi, Korean, Cantonese, Maracuchan, and Nashvillian. During this stint abroad, I fell in love with the International Baccalaureate programme. It’s ability to produce internationally-minded, well-rounded, life-long learners with a catch for rigor continues to amaze me. I have taught in the Middle Years Programme and taught and coordinated the Diploma Programme. While in Venezuela I started to miss those things at home like family, live music, football, and general diversity, so I started looking for opportunities back home. Finding a connection with SLLIS is probably the most serendipitous thing that has ever happened to me. Early on in my teaching career I had decided that I wanted to figure out how to provide high quality education to those without that opportunity. This is it, so here I am, and I’ve never been happier. Thank you for having me.
2. What does inquiry look like?
To start, inquiry is student-centered. If you were to walk into a classroom, you would see students working together, asking questions, creating, talking, observing, and more than anything, engaged. And ideally, we would see teachers learning right alongside their students. It’s not easy as there are many moments of uncertainty. The process of asking questions, exploring answers, processing the information, and creating presentations feels purposeful and are central to inquiry. It is vibrant, challenging, and complex with no easy answers. It takes the contribution of every student in the class to reach a goal. As one student puts it, “We’re not given sheets; we’re given possibilities”. -#pypchat
3. Why does education reform matter?
In every organization change is inevitable. When an organization does not embrace change, it begins to fade. Education as an institution is no different. We must change to suit the times we are living in. Unfortunately, it seems too often that education reform benefits politicians more than it does the students. With that said, Common Core is a big topic in education reform lately, and I think it’s heading us in the right direction. It emphasizes inquiry, clearly addresses the need to improve the standard of writing, and because it is skills rather than concept based, I believe it goes a long way in answering the question of what a 21st century learner needs. However, at the end of the day reform means nothing until we begin to respect our teachers by giving them the resources, time, and compensation to reward their hard work.
4. What will it take for every child to receive an outstanding education in the US?
I recently read that the US is one of the only industrialized nations where students in higher income areas are provided with more resources than those in high need areas. In my opinion, we need to change the way our schools are funded. Funding schools with local tax dollars is a sure way to perpetuate inequality among our nation’s schools. I also believe that by making our schools a community center where folks from the neighborhood can come in and teach kids or access school facilities after hours for various gatherings, we can enrich the learning experience and quality of life for everyone. At the end of the day, it’s everyone’s responsibility to contribute to the needs of our children.
5. If you could have dinner with 5 other people (dead or alive) who would they be?
John Dewey. John Dewey was a 19th century American philosopher who believed that students thrive in an environment where they are allowed to experience and interact with the curriculum, and all students should have the opportunity to take part in their own learning. He also believed that schools are a center of social change. Dewey was so far ahead of his time that he was essentially the founder of the very ideas we use today in active inquiry and community school models.
Pope Francis. Having been raised in a Catholic Italian family, I’ve always followed the church. Pope Francis intrigues me in that he stands as one of the most outspoken people alive about the need for social justice and dialogue across all backgrounds and faiths.
Johannes Kepler. I learned my senior year of high school that Johannes Kepler, the great astronomer is my great (many many times removed) grandfather. He established three essential laws of planetary motion. Interestingly, he practiced at a time when there was little distinction between astronomy and astrology.
Anthony Bourdain. Good writing, delicious food and travel are three of my favorite things in life, and Mr. Bourdain does them all so very well.
Will Smith. One of my first cassette tapes was DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince. I have since followed Will Smith through The Fresh Prince of Belaire, The Pursuit of Happyness, and Ali. He’s like the cousin I never met.