“It makes no sense to discuss the abolition of the Unified State Examination”: an interview with the founder of the “Class Center” Sergey Kazarnovsky

Class Center is a unique school. Along with the usual physics and mathematics, dancing, acting and playing musical instruments are among the compulsory disciplines. And also – meta-subject weeks, when all students are immersed in the study of one fundamental concept. Every year the guys put on performances, perform at concerts and do a lot of design work.

We talked to the founder of the Class Center and asked him about the history of the school, teaching principles and patriotism. And yes, Sergey Kazarnovsky’s career began with a performance at a research center where he worked after graduating from a construction institute.

Sergei Kazarnovsky

Director and founder of the Class Center school, author of the Encyclopedia program, director.

About how it all began

My mother has always been fond of theater and art in general. For 29 years she carried a volume of Yesenin with her. In 1942, when the Germans entered Nalchik, she was sent to relatives in Moscow.

They worked in industry – they built Magnitogorsk, DneproGES. Under their influence, my mother entered the Civil Engineering Institute. Then, in order to get a room in a communal apartment, she worked as a foreman at a construction site.

At the same time, she met her father, also a builder, in whose family there was a cult of music. I remember at home we had 20 boxes of discs – a collection of classics. We listened to them all the time. In the second grade, my parents sent me to a music school. Then I played in the orchestra on folk instruments, then I mastered the guitar, drums …

In addition, he was fond of the theater. My father and I went to many performances. And in high school, I was an actor in children’s studios. In parallel with this, I did a lot of sports, trained in various sports sections. I swam in the pool, graduated from a basketball sports school, mastered cross-country skiing …

At the same time, having graduated from the physics and mathematics school in parallel with the usual one, I entered the engineering and construction school, like my parents. However, after the third year I got bored there.

At the same time, in the house of my future wife, I met with those who were called the sixties: journalists, publicists, scientists, theater workers. It was the cultural elite of that time. Perhaps this environment shaped me in many ways.

For example, my father-in-law, a well-known publicist, was a member of the public council of the Taganka Theatre, and I was able to watch almost all the performances there.

After the fourth year, I decided to return to the music school. And then, already being an engineer, I gathered a team of friends from our Center, with whom we once staged a performance according to my script. It was about the beauty and value (or rather, pricelessness) of human life and about those times in our history when this was forgotten. On the role of the majority and the minority in solving the most important human problems.

Performance at the Class Center. Photo courtesy of Sergey Kazarnovsky.

Perhaps, in many ways, these were echoes of conversations that had previously only taken place in the kitchens. Our spectators — scientists, engineers and technicians and workers of the experimental production of the Center — did not expect this. Especially from us young people – Komsomol members, by the way! Although then this “party affiliation” was, as a rule, associated only with age.

I shared this with a friend of mine who is an English teacher at school. And he suggested doing something similar at school. In the same autumn of 1981, we staged the play “History Lesson”. The school sent him to the competition, and he took first place in Moscow among theater studios, schools and Pioneer Palaces.

Soon there we staged the play “The Lizard” based on the play by A. M. Volodin, and several newspapers wrote about us at once: Komsomolskaya Pravda, Moskovsky Komsomolets and Pravda. The hall was packed with spectators. The kids were selling tickets. Pavel Khomsky, the chief director of the Mossovet Theater, even came to the performance. After looking at it, he said: “You need to study.” So I entered Shchukinskoye.

And the district authorities, who came after the publication in Pravda, offered to go to work in the school. For a position with the beer name “kruzhkovod”.

At some point, the idea arose to create my own school. I gradually came up with its concept and my educational program. I drew a poster-appeal and gave it to the head of education in Moscow, Lyubov Petrovna Kezina. All this seemed to her amusing, and she gave the go-ahead.

The building of the “Class Center”. Photo courtesy of Sergey Kazarnovsky.

So in 1990 we became a branch of one of the Moscow schools, and two years later we were given a dilapidated building, which later became the “Class Center”.

About the idea of the school

When I thought about the future school, I imagined a “different” school – not like the one in which I studied and in which I later began to work. Everything about her was human. What does human mean? This means taking into account the emotional nature of a person.

For example, I sit down to play the piano. Written: “Forte”. I’m playing. The teacher says to me: “What are you hammering on the keys for?” I’m starting to play differently. She again: “And now it’s completely quiet, you can’t hear it.” But all this is subjective. One plays like this, and the other like that. But the notes and signs are the same.

Concert at the Class Center. Photo courtesy of Sergey Kazarnovsky.

Or, for example, they say: “Read more expressively.” What is it like? Or: “Smear harder.” What does it mean? You have to learn to feel it. This is done by art cycle items related to music, drama and painting.

Tatyana Leonidovna

Extended day teacher at the “Class Center”

Many people think that the Class Center is a theater school. But it’s not. Sergei Zinovievich compares it with the gymnasium that existed before the revolution. In them, children studied theater, music, and art. Some may ask why study it? Why study physics and geography?

The creative disciplines are not as deterministic as, say, mathematics. But with their help you can learn to see halftones, shades. And, of course, it’s not just about music or art in general. This way of knowing the world is very important. That is why the subjects of the artistic cycle cannot be additional, optional.

And so I created a system in which the child would study in three directions at once – general education, music and theatre. I came to this model of learning empirically – I never graduated from pedagogical institutes.

We have been running the program for six years. At first there was only one such class, and then, when we realized that it worked, we transferred everyone to it.

About metasubjectivity

Performance at the Class Center. Photo courtesy of Sergey Kazarnovsky.

Such a conglomerate of general education, music and theater schools, obviously, made it possible to find interdisciplinary connections, creating integrative and meta-subject educational technologies.

In other words, to find a “common language” for different areas of knowledge. So that the guys in the reasoning are able to move from one subject area to another, see analogies and finally be able to answer the question: “Why do we need to know this?”

We gathered subject teachers and developed a conceptual and thematic agreement. It is built on fundamental concepts that underlie many disciplines.

The concept of rhythm, for example, exists in architecture, and in the Russian language, and in history, and in the theater. The term “system” is also used in many places: starting with the pension system (social studies) and ending with the Stanislavsky system (drama).

Creating the “Encyclopedia” – that’s how we called this metasubject technology – we took as a basis the universal key concepts around which everything is built. So, in the 5th grade, students master the concept of rhythm, in the 6th – dialogue, in the 7th – hierarchy. In the 8th, the idea of the element as part of the whole becomes key, and in the 9th it is replaced by the “system”. Years 10-11 are devoted to analysis and interpretation.

Metasubject lessons run throughout the year. Each teacher organizes work to comprehend the meaning of a key concept in his field.

There are also meta-subject weeks, when the whole school is immersed in the study of a single idea. Within their framework, thematic trips are held, joint lessons – when two subject teachers, having agreed in advance, conduct a common lesson. Students create projects and write essays.

In one of them, for example, a boy, describing the movement of the Decembrists, referred to the laws of physics. And the other translated the concept of mass from a physical sense into a political one. These are examples of metasubject thinking.

Zhitnov Stepan

Student of the “Class Center”

Weight. In many explanatory dictionaries, under the first number, this word is given a scientific lexical meaning: a measure of the inertia of the body. Inertia is a property of the body due to which it cannot be stopped instantly. Therefore, I do not agree with the opinion that the mass (in the social sense of the word) is a crowd, a multitude, a community. Most likely, this is something that is difficult to stop.

On the selection of students and teachers

Upon admission to the school, we meet with future students in the format of a special two-hour game. Together with the children we crawl on the floor, we give them tasks: draw a picture, dance, sing, tell about something. There is an exercise where we pass some objects on our hands, and the children fantasize what it could be.

Together with me there are 5-6 teachers of general education, drama and music school. This group is led by a school psychologist. Then we share our impressions with them and discuss which of the children our school suits, which of them will be able to live here 6 days a week from morning to evening.

And at the same time, we want to be sure that the child will be in a state of success from the first steps.

Presentation by junior high school students. Photo courtesy of Sergey Kazarnovsky.

Of course, sometimes you have to refuse. Usually you can immediately see if such activities – theater, music, painting – are unusual for a person. Yes, music is useful for everyone, but for this some people need to be outside the competitive environment, without exams and competitions. If the child initially has not very good data, he will suffer here.

Let me explain. There are people who have a good ear and they love to sing very much. There are people who have poor hearing, but they love to sing even more. So, they don’t need to be taught music academically. All their lives they sang “A Christmas tree was born in the forest” on one note and were happy. And then they will have to find out that from “vle” to “su” is an interval. Big sixth?

When new teachers come to us, the psychologist first of all talks with them. There are many aspects that she must evaluate during a conversation: inclusion, ability to solve problems and problems. We need to understand if we are “of the same blood.” Also, to test the teacher in action, I go to his open lessons.

About discipline

She is always important. There is a stereotype that actors and musicians are free creative people who do not need rules. But in fact, the theater is one of the toughest disciplines, because the performance must begin at exactly 19:00. Actors are sometimes even brought from the operating table to play their part. Delays do happen, of course. But in the theater they are treated extremely hard.

Another thing is that at school no one should walk in formation, as in the army. Discipline is built on mutual respect and agreements. Agreements on the rules of life and behavior are set out in the internal regulations. Moreover, each student personally signs them annually on September 1. And with his signature, he certifies his agreement with them. Actually, after that they become agreements.

However, such rules – of course, adjusted – are signed by both teachers and parents. In this case, all points should be spoken and explained. For example, why is it necessary to wear special clothes to the theater? To help you move into another reality. You come to the theater to be deceived. Not everyday clothes, of course, interfere with such a transition.

The more clear rules there are, the freer a person feels. Because everything is clear to him. And if the implementation of the rules can be tracked, and non-compliance can be corrected, then they become the norm, and no one will have to be reminded of it.

But for this, failure to comply with any agreements and rules should be considered as an emergency. And if they are not fulfilled, but it is impossible or unrealistic to track this for various reasons, then
they don’t work and should be abandoned.

Talking about the norms of school life, its values is a painstaking, long and delicate work. In general, a teacher is a person who has decided to devote his life to endless conversations with children. Therefore, when one of the students violates the agreements, I invite them to discuss the situation.

Sometimes for this directorial changes are organized – when the whole school gathers in a large hall. And sometimes we talk in my office. Often we leave school on the street or even in a cafe. We discuss why this happened and how we can fix it.

About school uniform

As such, we do not have a school uniform. During the day, the children have to change clothes many times: for a dance, for an acting lesson, for a play rehearsal, for physical education. Therefore, it is unrealistic to introduce something unified.

In addition, it is worth understanding that the form has different functions: discipline and pride. One thing is the military. Soldiers need to be similar to each other and be different from the enemy. This is not our case.

In the Class Center, schoolchildren are happy to wear different clothes with our slogan and logo: jackets, T-shirts, and windbreakers. Some even sew it themselves. Such clothes are in the nature of a union, a pride, and give pride in belonging to this place.

Students of the “Class Center” on the tour. Photo courtesy of Sergey Kazarnovsky.

We just try to dress in a business style – after all, we came to work. Although I wouldn’t be surprised if it changes in the direction of even more freedom. For example, if the first dyed hair caused me some resistance, now I’m used to it as an element of self-expression.

About the exam

When they say to me: “The exam is not needed,” I suggest thinking. Let’s take a look at the abbreviation. E is an exam. Is it possible to graduate from high school without an exam? It is forbidden. G is the state. What else can we have? E is one. Because the country has uniform requirements for school graduates. Therefore, it is pointless to discuss the abolition of the exam.

Another issue is its content. The USE is not a measure of the quality of education. It’s just a hurdle to overcome in order to take the next step. Having passed this exam, you already get a pass to a particular university, without passing anything beyond it.

Parents who say: “We don’t need this exam of yours!” I want to ask: “In the 11th grade, you took 8 exams each, which had nothing to do with further admission. Do you want to continue to bully children in the same way?

Of course, there are many problems that can arise with the exam. For example, when there are changes in the interpretation of certain historical events, students have problems with the development and assimilation of innovations. And therefore, with the answer to the question.

And the stereotype that I encounter: “USE – these are tests!” However, this has not been the case for a long time. Tests are minimal. Most of the essays and questions with a detailed answer.

About school traditions

We have many traditions. For example, on September 1, the donkey takes out a wheelbarrow with watermelons and candles – such a festive autumn cake. The first change of the year is watermelon.

The tradition on the Day of Knowledge – the donkey takes out watermelons. Photo courtesy of Sergey Kazarnovsky.

And on the wall of the school there is a screen where we display birthday greetings every day. So everyone who goes to class knows who needs to say kind words today.

Another tradition is for graduates. Our school has an elevator. But it cannot be used by students: this is a place of increased danger. However, at the last bell, the graduates rise on it.

Inside it is hung with craft paper, on which they write their afterwords to school life. And from that moment on, they get a permanent pass to school and the right to use the elevator.

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