cwj banner


Learning to Love Education Again


Dr. Stuart Grauer is a teacher, the founding Head of School at The Grauer School, and Founder of the Small Schools Coalition. He consults with schools worldwide and been awarded the University of San Diego Career Achievement Award, plus various international educational exchange fellowships including a Fulbright. Stuart is one of the nation's top authorities on small schools education. His work has been covered in The New York Times, Discovery Channel, and frequently in the local press in his home town of Encinitas, California, where he has been named “Peacemaker of the Year.” A regular essayist for Community Works Journal, Stuart's new book, Real Teachers, is available from CWI's Bookstore. email Stuart.

stuart grauerMaking Connections Between the Qur’an and Our Values
as Educators

I’m not Muslim, but I have been reading the Qur’an lately, in my role as a scholar and teacher, especially since there is so much reference to it in the news. As a humanities teacher and writer, I love how it is meant to be read in slow, measured rhythmic tones, like a meditation, and like much great poetic verse. I wish I could read it in Arabic, but alas. With Islam under hot scrutiny right now—Islamophobia—I can’t think of a better purpose for education. read more

Quality Pho
Back in the ‘90s we used film for all our photos and it took a lot of work to develop the film. It had to be done right and well. Near our school there was a photo shop that was owned by a Vietnamese fellow called Tam, and that was our go-to place. Tam developed our school photos with the greatest of care and, as a result, I grew in friendship with him. You might think that photo development and friendship would not be related well, but to me, when someone is great at what they do, it becomes friendship. read more

Connections and the Absence of Stuff
The first night in Havana, we walked down Las Ramblas, past people from toddlers to aged hanging out together, playing games along the side of the street, past the gritty pool hall and the corner bar with three dollar mojitos. We reached the drug store, a shop with glass cases running fore and aft down both sides. At first we weren’t sure it was really a drug store. There was an absence of “stuff” and an absence of colors beyond white and powder blue packaging. read more

Saving Daylight and the Psychology of Learning
If any reader knows a single teen who “springs forward” or springs at all when another hour is stolen from them, let me know. Because the overwhelming research shows that, as the National Sleep Foundation reports, not only in the United States but all over the developed world, “Two in three teens were found to be severely  deprived, losing two or more hours of sleep every night.” read more

The Manhasset Indians: Lacrosse and the Real History of
Comprehensive Schools in America

The town of Manhasset, Long Island, where I grew up, was divided into two distinct sections: the high ground, where all the original, white-flight suburban settlements were, and a small outskirts called the “Valley.” African-American families were settled down there, and they made up about 90% of the Valley population, along with a very few eastern and southern Europeans. Manhasset is an American Indian name meaning “island neighborhood." read more

Small Schools: The Real Story on the Economy of Getting Small
Small design schools have historically been presumed to be uneconomical. We now understand that small schools, defined by the Small Schools Coalition as schools with 399 students or fewer, are no more expensive than today’s large consolidated schools. In fact, research has shown that formulas for determining funding disguise tremendous non-cash costs associated closely with large schools; some of those costs are difficult to affix a price tag to, and some of them include terrible social costs. read more

What Wisdom Greater Than Curiosity: The Stranger Who
Was Yourself

Congruence starts when we make intimate disclosures to ourselves. We risk being honest and being known. We confront the rules of rank and status, willing to let them go. Through this vulnerability, the façade of independence collapses and the space for humility opens up. In this space, we better sense how infinitely we are bound with those around us.  We can at last make peace with how very interdependent we are, how reciprocal everything is. With others. read more

Small Versus Large Schools: The Truth About Equity, Cost,
and Diversity of Programming

Why do we keep the focus on building gigantic schools when we now have over 30 years of promising small schools data? Here is one big reason the data are ignored: cultural expectations about high school are deeply embedded. Powerful and often compelling myths about schooling tend to govern our collective assumptions about normalcy, and these myths have silently, steadfastly advanced. read more

Small Schools: The Myths, Reality, and Potential of Small Schools
Like many of our cities, the large school model had evolved very gradually and was not the result of a set plan, and so no one could state a single place or point in time where a threshold had been crossed and the old ways were not working. It had been more like watching a beautiful tree grow; we could discern nothing but the seasons until it came to pass that our tree was not at all what it had been, buckling the sidewalk and over-shadowing the once-sunny garden, spreading limbs that could hardy support themselves, or couldn’t. read more

Tikkun Olam: In Jerusalem
Bright and early the next morning, we headed over to the Hand and Hand School in Jerusalem. Hand in Hand is a program for mixed ethnicities featuring dual language immersion: Hebrew half the day, Arabic half the day. Our students dove in and gave English lessons and made art with the little ones. read more

School Behind the Mangroves: On Causing No Harm
We are heading out to a distant point where the surf breaks along a long, clean punta, and all the way along the shorelines look like impenetrably thick, green brush. Steering closer to shore, we eventually begin to notice occasional dark spots in the mangroves and, closer still, they appear as tiny, green, creek mouths, slight inlets big enough for a few dugout canoes. read more

Democratic Learning: Pete Seeger, A Real Teacher
With arguably fewer traditional folksingers in the country these days, I wonder if many of our students know what a folksinger’s true role is. As a folksinger, Seeger was motivated by concerns for social justice, cross-cultural communication, and international peace, and so he performed songs from diverse sources to any “folks” who’d listen, in order to advance these concerns. I’d like to think a great school has some folkteachers, willing to risk it all for some lessons that really reach students. read more

Exile and Restitution: Thoughts on the Riddle of Childscape
My earliest memories are in nature. I remember filling my pockets with eye-catching stones—stones for gathering and arranging, throwing and hunting. I remember running renegade through the narrow, leaf covered paths. I read that fireflies are hard to find these days, but not back then. On summer nights, we illuminated glass jars with fireflies we caught from around the low hanging trees and set them free the next night. A moon of my own in a jar. read more

Teaching Karibuni: Five Stories of School Hopping in Tanzania
Emmanuel, Weruweru’s physics teacher, is discussing what is important in a school, and he is using the exact word I have heard tribes use on two other continents: unity. “‘Unity’ is a word people only think to use when it has been at grave risk,” I express to him. “Or else when they are gathered together eating fry bread. That is the only exception.” He smiles as his students dig in to lunch. His students seem to live their lives holding hands. They are the most physical kids we have ever seen. read more

Gaokao Cowboy: How National Examinations Impact
Student Development

The exams we use to evaluate our school children have the power to shape not only a nation’s future, but the character and development of the children who take them. Who sets this agenda? This essay deliberates the changing landscapes of national testing in the United States and China , and the conflicts inherent when student learning, patterns of engagement, evaluation and placement are focused fundamentally on high stakes, standardized exams. read more

Meet Me on the Corner of the Green and Digital
With due appreciation for the amazing technology connecting our global village, hardly a thought is given to the isolation of all those digitally enhanced brains walking around our schools and neighborhoods. In schools across the country, textbooks are being replaced by digital textbooks, and the next iteration will surely deliver apps that students can use to click right in to their books. Again, this is amazing. read more

Single Handing It: Finding Our Way In An Age Of Fear
I meet many parents who show low tolerance for a tough journey, for an open-ended journey, or for watching their children finding their own way. Millennial parents believe it is their responsibility to keep their children headed on a straight and narrow tunnel, or as I call it, "the race to the cubicle." A growing number of Ivy League admissions officers complain that the intellectually sensitive and supposed "best and brightest" (i.e., highest scoring) among our children have become masters of compliance and tunnel vision. read more

Succotash and Standardized Teaching
Like a freight train taking on John Henry, The No Child Left Behind Act and national teaching standards set by The Race to the Top rolled over local educational practices through the first decade of the new millennium.  It would no doubt stun our founding fathers that, eventually, in the new millennium, states that adopted the national standards would win points in the competition for a share of the billions of dollars to be awarded to the most compliant among them. read more

MORE from the Journal: essays l articles l reflections l reviews l literacy corner l events

© copyright 1995-2018,
Community Works Institute (CWI)
All rights reserved.
CWI a non-profit educational organization

CONTENT USE POLICY No material contained within this web site may be reproduced in print, by electronic or other means, without permission. All materials contained within this web site remain the sole and exclusive property of CWI, or the author if designated by arrangement.

donate now