Design and run my own school, straight and simple.
However, my own school wouldn’t be as simple as people think. To start, it would be built from the ground up. I want a specific building and campus design. My school would have a real cafeteria, two gymnasiums, a kitchen, storage space for manipulatives and realia, a huge library as well as a garden and a playground on the roof.
Students would both grow and prepare the food they would be eating for lunch. Having a kitchen and a cafeteria would be vital since the students could very well use it for lessons in math (fractions), life skills (nutrition and dining), manners (how to be polite while consuming your dinner), and fund raising (hosting dinners or making food for bake sales).
The school would have a dedicated liberal arts floor/ wing for art and music classes. Art would encompass actual drawing, painting, and ceramics lessons. Because the nature of the school would involve service learning, students would rotate in to help prep the classes or stay behind to clean up.
In addition to the liberal arts wing would be a math/science wing. There would be labs set up for learning science concepts, exploration, as well as math labs. Having teachers staff these would allow for classroom teachers to both observe and participate fully in the math explorations. Students would be expected to keep detailed lab notebooks in both subjects, allowing them to explore the topics in depth.
Rather than having dedicated computer labs or laptop carts, each room would be equipped with the computers needed to allow students to complete technology assignments as needed. Integrated technology lessons, as well as dedicated IT person, would be needed to keep this resource from becoming a toy.
Since this would, obviously, be a charter school, there would be two shifts of personnel. This would allow there to be both before and after programs designed to remediate student skills or to accelerate them. Teachers would be encouraged to work the 8-hour shift that best suited their schedules. While 8-4 works for some, others would prefer 10-6, while still others need 6:30-2:30. Flexibility in scheduling would allow both students and teachers to get what they need while allowing them to give their best.
Fund raising would become a key component since a vital part of education comes from a student’s experiences. In order to give students more, and more varied, experiences field trips would be scheduled no less than bi-monthly, preferably, monthly. Job shadowing, museum visits, plays or concerts, nature hikes, and archeological digs all expand a child’s schema and bring curriculum to life.
Furthermore, we cannot escape that our bodies are a vital part of the equation. All students would take part in daily PE; hence, two gyms. Students would take part in planting, maintaining and harvesting crops from the school gardens. Lessons learned in PE or science would help them design lunch menus that capitalize on the fresh produce and are nutritious as well as delicious.
Finally, all students would play vital and active roles in the school through service learning projects. Students would create, run, and maintain programs in peer tutoring, homework help, recycling, composting, gardening, teacher assistants, and junior janitorial. These roles would shift, change, evolve and grow as the school and students grew in age and experience. However, by having the students take a key role in the running of the school, their ownership would develop more than a school. It would establish and nurture a community.