As I think about starting a school as well as sending my daughter to school, I have a dream of a great school. It looks like this:
- Learning needs to be as enjoyable and exciting as possible.
- You need to start with the love. You need to inspire a passion for a subject, motivating students to seek out more information without any outside prodding.
- In fact, in order to test how well you are inspiring the students, you have to eliminate all requirements. You have to simply allow them to do what ever they want to do. If they’re not engaging with the lessons and material you’ve created then you’re not doing a good enough job as a teacher.
- Learning must be as accessible as possible
- You need to make the material as accessible as possible. Learning should not require being in a specific place at a specific time (this may enhance the learning, but it should not be the only way to get the learning).
- Ideally material should not require a teacher to be present at all. Science museums are great examples of this. They create exhibits that you can visit at any time and enjoy without any outside help. Teachers should be focusing on creating the best learning exhibits they can, not on classroom management. This is not to say that teachers should not be present. Even the best exhibit will likely benefit from a teacher’s presence so that students can ask more questions, but if the teacher is not there than the material should still be accessible and engaging.
- If the most engaging way to teach the information is in person then at the very least that lesson should be taped and put online so any student can access it at any time.
- Students must be respected
- Students of all ages should be treated like adults. They should be trusted to make appropriate decisions and held accountable for inappropriate actions. Teachers should not hover over them, should not question their activities. If they are staring out the window then let them stare out the window.
- Frankly we should respect that they want to make the most of themselves. If we think they are struggling with those decisions our first thought should be toward improving the environment so that better decisions will be made. In some situations we should talk to the student, but not as a superior talking to an inferior, but rather the same way we might talk to a friend. Offering thoughts, support, and encouragement, but not acting like an expert who has all the answers or an authority whose advice must be followed.
Those would be my priorities. I think if you get those things right then a lot of other things fall in to place. Bullying is going to happen a lot less when everyone is engaged in more interesting activities and everyone feels respected within the environment. If you can tap in to more intrinsic motivations like curiosity, progress, autonomy, etc. then you’re much more likely to create an environment where students seek out learning.
I think a student who leaves such an environment will be much more prepared to make decisions for themselves, work collaboratively with others, continue a lifelong love of learning, etc. These skills are the skills I hope my daughter is able to develop throughout her education. If I am able to start a school these would be my priorities.