Still catching up: Episode 1, prompt 3, Season 2 #IMMOOC

If you started a school from scratch, what would you see as necessary, and what would you take out from what we currently do?

Well now.

I’ve actually had that honor to co-found a Nativity School, a middle school for inner city boys. They had to have strong aspirations to learn, not necessarily the brightest children, but their teachers felt that they were getting lost in their large classrooms, and these boys had the potential to do so much more.

What was essential:

  • For the students:
    • time to read for fun,
    • recess,
    • the opportunity to interact with the adults in a non-threatening environment,
    • community service,
    • sports times,
    • study time,
    • safety.
    • Hands-on learning across all disciplines.
    • We made time to talk to the students and get to know them as individuals.
  • For the teachers:
    • We made sure that we had regular professional development meetings with the teachers. Some topics ours (they were new, Americorps volunteers) and some were theirs.
    • It was important the PD was always linked to a relaxing, social event.
    • We celebrated the teachers on a regular basis, even if it was just donuts and coffee on a Friday.

What did we take out?

  • For the students:
    • We did not administer standardized tests.
    • We did not assign detentions, but the opportunity to learn from mistakes.
    • We assessed our students in unconventional (at the time) ways.
    • We took out fear (as much as we could) – of bullying, of failure, of embarrassment.
  • For the teachers:
    • We encouraged learning, trying new things.
    • We encouraged reflection on the practice.
    • We tried to reduce fear of failure.

It was the hardest and one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done.