How does one start a school? This afternoon I found myself wondering about that. As I tried to avoid finishing laundry and getting ready for Monday, I Googled "How to start a school", just for the heck of it. It seems like a lengthy process, and costly. But it's fun to think about and sketch out what it might look like.
I have actually thought about this a lot over the years. If I ever did start a school, I already have colleagues in mind who I would ask to join me, and people for a Board of Directors. I have ideas about the kinds of teachers I would want, and what the space might look like.
My school would be a middle school, grades 6-8. The school would be focused on social justice education and technology. Differences of all kinds would be celebrated, with a focus on traditionally underrepresented groups. It would be a place where students could help drive their own learning. They could create their own goals for what they wanted to learn, covering the major 4 academic areas. Some traditional classes could take place, but also students could be off working on their own learning projects in separate areas of the school, and have check-ins with their teachers. Some students would work in groups and others individually, depending on what works best for them.
Curriculum would be created by the teachers. Each teacher could write his/her own curriculum, and the the teachers as a group could give feedback on it. Teachers would decide on the teaching model that works best for them and their students, with the approval of their colleagues. The teachers would also run the school, and parents would help them. They would have a leader who could deal with the day to day operations, but the major school decisions would be made together.
Students would be able to study a language, art and music of their choice, though these fields would be integrated in their core classes. Students would have a break in the morning and another in the afternoon, with a snack. Lunch would be served family style, at round tables, and would last at least 45 minutes.
Students would have a period of activity of their choice - dance, biking, team sports, fitness classes. The school day would begin at 8:30 and end at 4:30. There would be no homework - except for reading and studying material learned that day, as a review. Grades would be a narrative about each student's learning process as well as social/emotional development. At the end of each marking period, students would reflect on their goals, their successes, and what they still needed to work on.
Teachers would do the same thing for their teaching. They would not be evaluated, but would give and take feedback from their colleagues about their teaching. They would have 2 hours every day of their own preparation time.
Parents would be involved in a variety of ways in the school - not only at parent organization events. They could assist in classrooms, teach classes, help cook and serve lunch, offer tutoring, organize field trips, and more.
The school would be a joint partnership between families, students, and teachers.
It sounds very idealistic. As I look back on what I wrote, though, I realize that a school like this once existed, and I went to it. It was the Che Lumumba School. My school would probably have a different name :-) Maybe I would call it the Nieto School for Progressive Learning, or something like that. But the philosophy would in some ways be similar to that old school of mine, courageously founded by a group of idealistic and very dedicated parents and teachers.