by Aaron Browder, Open School staff
August 30, 2017
Here’s how you can convert your traditional public school into a haven of self-directed education where all kids can succeed. (Warning: the government may get mad and cut your funding.)
1. Teachers. Let the kids use their voices. Let them ask questions. They have a lot. It will be loud. If the noise gives you a headache, you can step outside. The kids will ask their questions to each other.
Don’t lecture them — have conversations with them. Learn about them. Let them learn about you. Find out about their problems. Share your wisdom.
2. Forget the tests. Lose the worksheets under a pile of maps and board games. Feed the homework to the class goat.
3. Open the classroom doors. Let the kids wander the halls. Let them go into other classrooms. Let them make friends with whomever they want. Let them go into the art room and make art. Let them go into the library and read. Let them go into the lab and do science. Let them go into the cafeteria and eat their lunch. Let them go onto the playgroud and play.
4. Don’t track them. When parents ask you what their kid is learning, say, “I don’t know.” They are probably off somewhere building a pretend city out of mud and rocks. When parents ask you how you are ensuring their kid will be successful in life, say, “I can’t ensure that. Nobody can. Four percent of Americans are unemployed. Fourteen percent are living in poverty. Fourteen percent can’t read. Eighty percent are in debt. When they were kids, their schools said they would be prepared for life. They weren’t.”When they were kids, their schools said they would be prepared for life. They weren’t. Click To Tweet
Even the valedictorians didn’t amount to much. They lived fine, normal lives. They didn’t change the world or strike it rich like everyone thought they would.
5. Watch the kids. They are very busy. They are making up games and negotiating the rules with other kids who were strangers five minutes ago. They are rolling different objects down the slide, trying to figure out why some objects roll faster than others. They are writing their friends notes in a code they invented; non-friends are trying to crack that code.
They are tucked in a corner for three hours trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube. They are painting suns on tree bark using chalk rocks they found in the garden. They are dancing around a teenager while she plays her guitar. They are using a calculator and a measuring tape to figure out how many rocks they need to collect in order to mark the perimeter of a makeshift soccer field.
6. Be optimistic. These kids aren’t like the ones we hear about; the ones who only do the bare minimum and then go home and play video games until their parents force them to go to sleep. These kids are full of vitality. They do more than the maximum. You wonder where all the energy comes from. Then they go home and keep doing it, what they’ve been doing all day at school, and then they pass out from exhaustion at 9 PM and wake up at the crack of dawn ready to do it all again.
Their vitality doesn’t decrease with age. When they grow up they won’t be like the adults we hear about; the adults who do the bare minimum at work and then go home and binge watch Netflix until their backs hurt from too much sitting. They will be the entrepreneurs, the visionaries, the extra-milers, the change-makers, the ones who somehow find that rare joy in life, and they will use that joy to create something amazing, something the world needs and will pay a lot of money for.
7. Relax. Lay off the school therapist; you don’t need her anymore. Sell 90% of the microscopes; only a few kids want to use microscopes at any one time. Burn the textbooks in a big bonfire and watch the pages turn black and curl up. Google “why does paper burn.” Take a nap. The kids already know how to learn.