I recently visited an alternative high school in Melbourne, Australia which we’ll call ‘A’.
Well, if I want to transform the educational system… I sorta have to practice what I preach. What better way to start out than to get involved with an alternative school near me?
Here I am, sitting among the 20 or so students in their communal area. The day’s about to begin, but first, we’re gathered in homeroom.
1. No one cares that there’s a random person hovering in the corner with a notepad in her hand
2. There’s no uniform policy
3. Teachers and students are on first name basis
4. Teachers are sitting on the floors, and being all casual, and letting the students do most of the leading
5. My brain needs to recalibrate … I don’t feel like I’m in school
6. On the google meet with the principal, a student remarks “you look like an old GP from that angle” (I like this school already)
7. Huh… so this is what non-hierarchal school looks like
The students and staff began with ‘appreciations and concerns‘. Essentially anyone can share their academic/personal concerns, and explain what’s happening in their lives.
What surprised the heck out of me, was that all students RESPECTFULLY listened and asked questions. They rarely interrupted whoever was sharing their story.
They actually cared what other students had to say, and let everyone have a turn in talking. Also interestingly, a student was mediating this discussion, not a teacher.
For whatever reason, these students had moved from traditional schooling into this alternative school. And from what I saw, they liked it here.
Also, turns out I was also the student. The 13-14 year olds were teaching me about laws Trump was trying to pass, blood diamonds and other things I was nodding my head at thinking ‘shit, guess I gotta do more research’.
Interestingly, students could leave class at any time (ie go to the bathroom, take a break). They had total autonomy to do what they wanted … but they decided to work in class.
Note to self: Avoid powerpoint when absolutely possible – or only include images
With such a juicy topic like LGBTQI, it could’ve been entirely discussion based, and student led.
The students could address their own experiences with discrimination, or suggest ways to promote more equality.
This school system was so refreshing to see. There was more student autonomy, less compliance, and less imposed hierarchy. Students were actually eager to learn.
We need to apply this to more schools. I’m certain we can do it.