You are sitting in class at a school where you sat on the committee who hired your teacher. You got to decide if he would be a good fit for the school. You get up and leave the classroom without asking first because you need to use the bathroom. You walk down the hall past the lockers without locks on them. You use the facilities and return to your classroom, stopping on the way to buy a drink from a machine, which you then take with you and drink without getting in trouble.
In class, you work with the other students to come up with a list of rules that you want for the classroom. Your friend writes them on the board and your teacher stands at the back of the room, out of sight and not leading the discussion. You are glad that your classmates understand that you don’t have a lot of input today because you explained at the beginning of the day during sharing time that your grandpa is having health issues.
Your classmate disagrees with one of the rules the others want. He carefully explains why he disagrees with it and offers an equally-satisfactory alternative.
After you finish the list of rules, you and your classmates receive a project assignment. You all get up and move your rectangle, square, and half-circle shaped tables into a better arrangement for group discussion. You come up with a list of what you already know about the project, and open up your laptop to take notes on a Google doc. You tweet about how excited you are to learn more about the list of “need-to-knows” that your classmates are now working on.After class, you all walk out into the common room for “download” time, where you spend your break getting on Facebook, responding to your messages, and liking a friend’s picture.
All this and more are the norm at Niles New Tech Entrepreneurial Academy, where learners (students) aren’t afraid to ask questions, are respected by their facilitators (teachers), and have freedoms like no other because they have learned maturity and respect along with their usual lessons.
If you ever visit Niles, I’ll set you up with a tour. Everyone should know about this place. Follow them on Twitter @nilesnewtech and search “nilesnewtech” to get regular school updates. Be amazed by the teachers and students who love their school and what they are learning!
Further reading on alternative education:
Free At Last: The Sudbury Valley School by Daniel Greenberg
Making It Up As We Go Along: The Story of the Albany Free School by Chris Mercogliano
The Montessori Method by Maria Montessori