A New Kind of School

Here’s an open thought. What if I could design a school that had the following:

— a home-room design, with a class size of no more than 15-16 students.

— home room teachers who are generalists and facilitators, and who are adept at rapidly “going deep” on multiple topics.

— few or no specialists

— very few administrators

— 20-30% of each school day devoted to expert learner activities, based on student selection and initiative

— integration of online learning opportunities when appropriate

— commitment of parents to arrange and follow-through on after-school sports activities for X percentage of the year.

Now, please don’t think I have anything against specialists (I’m one, for example) or sports or administrators (I’m one). It’s just the idea of reducing class size, topic areas and overall costs that intrigues me, as well as taking advantage of new sources of information and learning, and recognizing and rewarding all students as expert learners.

Sometimes I wonder if the generalist approach for education is always a good idea– six to seven topics a day, in fifty minute periods, with competency expected in every one. In my own children, I see kids who want to go deep. My nine year-old son is reading and collecting facts and strings of information from every fishing book he can find. My seven year-old daughter gave me a short academic lecture last night about the impact of disappearing minnows and other small fish from the ocean food chain, and now she’s studying books about the “insides” of cats instead of just pretty pictures of them.

I think “all vertical” learning would be a bad idea, but stomping it out seems worse.

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