Sometimes, my mind wanders and I dream about what would happen if I had a Willy Wonka moment. You know, where Charlie pulls the coin out of the drain and buys one more chocolate bar and wins a grand prize? I dream that my Willy Wonka moment will come in the form of a letter in the mail, from someone extremely wealthy and it will have a little post-it note attached to it that says “Follow Your Dreams. Build A School.” Okay, cue the dramatic music. What would happen next? No, I don’t know how a school is actually started, nor do I know the ins and outs of private or charter. None of that matters. This is a dream, right?
So, what would it look like?
There’d be a HUGE sign on the door that said “Welcome: Now Entering an Innovation Zone.” It would be neon, because innovation should be noticed. Creativity would ooze from every pore in the building. Colorful walls, comfy seating, nooks, and crannies where kids could collaborate, discuss, dream, and learn. A treehouse in the library with a big fake tree that contains lights. An art room that looks more like a studio. A cafeteria that looks like a seating area at a cozy, modern coffee house and could be used throughout the day as another comfy gathering space. Experts would come in during lunch to present on their careers through an informal chat at the tables. A science lab stocked with all the tools that are needed for students to conduct experiments as often as necessary. Science projects wouldn’t just happen once a year. Collaboration would be supported. IdeaPaint on the halls, tables, and spaces all around. “Grade levels” would be more like rooms that kids advanced through, not based on age, but based on readiness and ability. Constructivism, Inquiry, Project Based Learning, and Passion would be the vehicles and students would be driving. Curriculum would be a loose road map based on standards that’s traveled through. Digging deep, not covering curriculum, would be the requirement. A brightly painted bus would sit outside the school and be available for field trips all throughout the year. It would drive kids to service projects, to career explorations, to local universities to tour science labs, to factories to explore engineering, and so much more. The front hallway would contain a large board where parents and the community would be invited to post thank you notes to the school, to teachers, and to their kids for a job well done. Learning would be celebrated over honor rolls. Every afternoon, kids would get their 20% time. During this time, teachers would sign up on a giant board to host classes in their area of passion. Kids get the choice to attend whatever they wish. Kids could even sign up to host a session. Think edcamp, for kids. Technology integration wouldn’t be an event, it’d just be part of the day. Homework collection wouldn’t be the focus. Kids would take home their work because they want to. Laptops, desktops, tablets, iPads, and even cell phones. Whatever, wherever, whenever. Regulations? It’d be about developing student trust, respect, and knowledge of how and when to use devices. The building? It would have a sense of wonder. Every teacher would have a special parking space in the parking lot, with a sign decorated by a student that would tell them what they mean to to them. So, it would be the first, and last, thing that teacher sees every single day throughout the school year. A huge fish aquarium in the halls with places to just sit, watch, and ponder. Marine biology, robotics, and agriculture would all be studied. Not because they are “a standard.” But, because embedding standards into high interest inquiry topics is what learning truly is about. The common core of the school would be character, helping others, and being your best. Authentic experiences would rule over pacing guides. State tests? Cancelled. We’d learn to read for the joy of reading, do math because problem solving is important, and learn because we love it.
Seriously, a big treehouse, IN the library.