We begin by knowing our students as unique individuals: What are their passions? What motivates them? What creates meaning in their lives? We donʼt seek to change students; we know how amazing they already are. We facilitate their growth by traveling alongside them. They learn by playing, conversing, and pursuing their passions, and they grow in independence, responsibility, and compassion by practicing these things daily and authentically.
Our students are allowed to spend their time however they choose. They are free to live according to their own conscience and interests, and design their own daily routines. Staff do not assign work, teach classes, give tests, or insist that students learn anything in particular. This gives students the opportunity to pursue their own passions, discover their unique learning styles, and truly know themselves.
We believe our job is to prepare students for the real world, where they will be required to make decisions about their lives, overcome unexpected obstacles, and learn whatever needs to be learned. What better way to prepare for these things than a childhood full of practice?
Freedom comes with great responsibility. Our students are responsible for their own bodies, time, environment, possessions, and educational outcomes. With such great responsibility, students learn how to achieve their own goals using their own motivation.
Students are also responsible for taking care of themselves and others. Because staff do not constantly monitor students or intervene in their struggles, students must learn to keep themselves safe, stand up for their own rights, and enforce school rules.
The Open School is governed entirely by the democratic School Meeting, in which each student and staff member gets one vote. As members of the School Meeting, students are responsible for the actual governance of the school. Their decisions have real impact on their lives and the lives of others, and they must learn to use this power responsibly.
Students are also responsible for carrying out justice when rules are broken. Usually this means engaging in a mediation process according to the principles of Nonviolent Communication. Through this process, students must listen empathetically to the viewpoints of others and come to a resolution that meets everyone’s needs.
If mediation doesn’t work, rule violations are handled by a democratic committee, consisting of students and staff, called the Civics Board. This body conducts investigations and votes on sentences, making sure that all individuals are heard and tried fairly.
Every student at The Open School has the experience of being on trial and the experience of sitting in the judge’s seat. By experiencing a variety of viewpoints, they cultivate empathy for others in their community.
Compassion is also encouraged by The Open School’s age-mixed environment. Being with kids of all ages, instead of just same-age peers, fosters cooperation instead of competition. Students learn to look after each other and keep each other safe, and older students practice gentleness and leadership by helping, playing with, and teaching younger children.