Snow globe schools

So my goal of writing a post a week lasted… about a week. That’s the reality of coming back from our overseas holiday straight into a new school year!

On the plus side, I have been successful thus far in my determination to leave school before 5pm every day and not bring work home with me (fairly easy to achieve in these early term weeks; it will take much greater resolve when the marking starts rolling in). The benefits of very deliberately erecting a 6-foot wall between work and home are tangible: a clearer head, more sleep, less tension in my body… and a cleaner house.

I am thinking about school tonight, however… particularly a student who I’ve already taught for a year. Let’s call him Greg.

I very much like Greg. He has a resilient nature and an open heart to spiritual conversations. He is not socially inept and makes friends easily.

Yet Greg is an obstreperous child. He has brains and capability but cannot remain still long enough to engage deeply with the content. He simply cannot resist responding to any instigation, which of course the boys who are practised in the art of subtle provocation see as a red flag to a bull. And by the third time in ten minutes I have asked Greg to return to his seat, I find my patience severely tried and my resolve to enjoy every one of my students quickly diminishing.

As I drove home today I was dreading the thought of sending Greg’s parents a third email this week explaining that his behaviour in my lesson was less than desirable, when a little light bulb switched on in my head. Maybe Greg’s aggressive behaviours are triggered by the overstimulation of group learning. Maybe Greg is just the student who would benefit from a learning in a microschool!

I am currently reading Jade Rivera’s book Microschools, where she relates the testimony of a parent of one her students:

Traditional school was a constantly shaken snow globe and they [her students] could never settle into themselves… Emotional needs never trump anything in traditional school. If you reflect [on the] industrialisation of education, emotions are too variable (especially the extreme ones of those with overexcitabilities) to be standardised, so they get ignored.

Or in Greg’s case, I have frequently allowed his overexcitabilities to become his identity – focusing on his behaviour before his learning needs.

I have been tempted to think of a microschool as being the rescue of students from peers like Greg; if they didn’t have constant distractions from their work they would obviously achieve at a much higher level. However, my mind is starting to shift to see the environment as much of the issue than the student – perhaps in an alternative, calm, disruption-free learning space where Greg has much more of my attention and reality-based projects to work on, he would fare much better than he is now.

Could a microschool provide online learning for Greg, who could then choose when is the best time of day for him to get his mind around concepts studied in English? (And would this mutually support the teacher with a slower, simpler work space?)

Instead of creating assessments for Greg to complete, could he problem-solve how skills such as reading for context might equip him for the ‘real’ world?

Could simplifying education allow Greg to ruminate on things that matter for longer… like God?

Thank you, Greg, for causing me to step out of my comfort zone and consider these questions. I pray God gives me the wisdom and ability to serve you.

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