Hello Dr. Stearns & Class,
After a long and eye-opening day, I have had time to collect my thoughts on School Without Walls. I entered the school with high expectations, which appeared to be attained at the start of the trip. Dan said all the thoughts and beliefs about education that I too carry (e.g. NCLB impeding on the growth and development of students rather than helping and working), which was inspiring for me. Having the school completely focused on the needs and desires of the students, along with student input – even in the hiring of new staff – was new and fascinating to me. Ground-breaking and interactive, SWW seemed to be the ideal school for young adults.
Referring to teachers by their first names and no announcements so students do not feel below the faculty and staff, watched over like “Big Brother,” and so to eliminate class disruptions, exemplify a few of SWW’s practices that impressed me.
With the exception of a couple additional aspects that I enjoyed, I noticed myself agreeing with the concept and purpose of the school rather than the activities and performance of the school. The classroom that I sat in on was highly disorganized, with the teacher having little control over her class’ behavior. I understand and respect the flexibility of the classroom setting at SWW, but by leaving the classroom multiple times without warning, the students were left with nobody to turn to for help when questions came up while doing a group activity. The teacher offered little to no input on the work that the students produced, and did not provide examples of her own for the students when the assignment was first given. I would like to believe that I happened to be placed in an unfortunate classroom, but I was and remain dissuaded from wanting to work in a SWW.
My opinions were affirmed during the observations made in the final classroom that several of us sat in: a young female English teacher, whose name I have forgotten. On a positive note, I approve of and would like to use the technique of having one’s students assist in creating a quiz, test, essay assignment, etc. The workshop enabled the students to review the reading they had done. I did not approve of the language use between the students and teachers. Casual, comfortable language is acceptable, in my opinion, but the use of words, such as “scumbag,” “bitchy,” and “f*ck” (a student used this word when speaking to a classmate, but directly in front of the teacher), are unnecessary. This sends a message to the students that the use of profanity is allowed in public settings. The students will have a rude awakening when they enter the workforce or use such language in a library or museum, for instance. I was shocked, to say the least.
I see that this blog is becoming quite lengthy, so I will end here. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to go on this trip. Thank you, Dr. Stearns. It was enlightening and there are many ideas and practices that I do agree with. Unfortunately, the observations did not evoke the same feelings.