This post is sponsored by XQ: The Super School Project. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
I’m a mother of five teens and tweens (a college sophomore, a high school junior, a high school freshman, plus 7th and 5th graders), and so it’s no surprise that I think about the education system a lot.
When I was young, I went to an extraordinary elementary school. We had a robust program for gifted and talented kids, and I was stretched more than I thought possible – in a good way. Although we live on the other side of the country now, my kids have also had an exceptional early school experience. Their schooling has been completely different than my own early years, but they have been blessed with an amazing school community and a positive learning environment.
I wish I could say the same for their middle and high school years. They’ve had dozens of exceptional teachers over the years, but I’ve noticed that there is something severely lacking in our secondary education system.
Let’s look at it this way. The high school system in the US was established 200 years ago. It was a completely different world back then. The needs of families and students back then look nothing like the needs of families and students today. How can we expect a system that was built to support teens in the 1800s to prepare our kids for life after public school in the 21st Century? The original goal of the public school system in the US was to provide free education to all of our children to prepare them to enter the work force when they were old enough. The problem is that the work force today looks nothing like it did back then, and yet the education model has not changed much at all.
Enter XQ: The Super School Project – a national movement to reimagine high school. As parents and students in today’s school system, we see a gap, and the time is NOW to make some changes.
If you could change the school system – for your own current teens or for your little ones who will be heading to high school in the future – what would you change? It’s hard to decide what we really need when we’ve only known one way.
I consider my youngest son. He is brilliant. He is a good student, but school simply isn’t enough. He comes home from school and he builds and he creates messes and he invents and he watches videos to learn everything from how to camp in sub-zero weather to how to start an aquaponics system.
Check out this short Instagram video of what he made this past weekend.
His kind of “smarts” cannot be contained in a textbook or even in a traditional classroom. I cringe to think that our public school system could, one day, stifle his creativity and his love of learning.
What kind of school environment would help him to thrive?
- The perfect school that I imagine for my children is a school would allow them to create, get messy, and learn through doing. Instead of desks lined up in a row, facing a chalkboard, classrooms would have round tables to encourage collaboration and discussion. There would be couches lining the walls to encourage a more comfortable, enjoyable approach to learning. Frankly, the perfect classroom would often not be a classroom at all, but learning would take place wherever the opportunity arose.
- The perfect school for my kids would bring in people who were passionate about topics and careers and skills so they could share their knowledge and passion with the students. Instead of learning out of a text book, they would learn by doing, from first-hand experience – even if that meant getting their hands dirty every once in a while. The perfect classroom would be filled with mistake-making and it would be perfectly acceptable. Their “tests” would not be about filling in the right bubble on the answer sheet, but about being able to create, recreate, explain, and show.
- The perfect school that I envision for my kids would allow them to try many things so that they could decide what they loved and where their talents were. Instead of focusing on one subject per class period, all learning would be interconnected and integrated. Kids would be able to spend more time delving deeper into their areas of interest, moving ahead in those “subjects” at a faster pace, but without totally ignoring other subjects. I think that learning a little bit about a lot of things is valuable, but learning a lot about a few things is even more powerful.
- I envision the perfect school to have a more relaxed environment with a greater sense of community, where everyone – teachers and students alike – were focused on building each other up. Lunches would be shared in a more home-like environment, serving foods that were healthy, not quick and easy. The classroom discussions would continue during the lunch hour, as students and teachers lounged around together, eating and sharing ideas and asking questions.
I feel like my kids are hungry for a better learning environment, and that a change in the way they’re being taught would make a world of difference in how well-prepared they are when they leave home.
What does the perfect school look like to you?
Find out more about XQ: The Super School Project.
XQ: The Super School Project is an open call to reimagine and design the next American high school. In towns and cities far and wide, teams will unite and take on this important work of our time: Rethinking and building schools that deeply prepare our students for the rigorous challenges of college, jobs, and life.
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