After reading countless articles, studies, and whitepapers on why homework is counterproductive, creativity is being squashed by the soldier-like regimen of public school, and why people forget more than half of what they learned in school, I’m prepared to offer a new kind of public school.
I recently attended the Brooklyn School Alternatives Conference and heard from a panel of micro-school directors about what learning is like in their (private) schools. Here is what some of them had to say:
“Experience ourselves as capable of changing culture” – Tomis Parker, Agile Learning Center
“Structure with flexibility” – Noleca Radway, Brooklyn Free School
“City as classroom” – Noah Mayers, Brooklyn Apple Academy
"Student-led open school and opt-in adult-led classes" - Monique Scott, Freebrook Academy
“Our curriculum is to everyday challenge the insular nature of the classroom” – Sara Casey Taleff, ALC Cottonwood
These micro-schools in Brooklyn are doing it right. The schools are structured around community and communication, not content. In many of these schools the teachers are called facilitators and are trained in helping students develop strong communication skills, independence, and self-regulation skills. Instead of corporations and non-educators deciding what students should learn and when they should learn, and master it, students choose topics of interest to dive into.
Students are taught to set intentions, reflect on their actions, and hold themselves accountable, while also learning to be flexible.
The current public school system could be transformed into this by using the same infrastructure and materials, changing the curriculum from an absolute to a supplemental tool, and making professional development for teachers center around communication skills, problem solving, and nurturing students instead of mastering benchmarks. A new kind of public education can be fostered, without much additional costs.
The focus is on students discovering their own learning style and then running with it.
The public school I envision has only 4 parts:
- Creative play- passion projects, maker-spaces
- Outdoor exploration- neighborhoods, parks, fresh air, sun, rain, and snow!
- Self-guided learning- solo and group, built in facilitator support, opt-in classes
- Reflection- what and how you are learning, your actions and choices
There would be opportunities for internship, apprenticeship, field trips and travel, and guest speakers, experts, presentations, and workshops- decided by the students and always optional to attend.
What kind of adult would you be if this was your school experience?