Today I was lucky enough to go and visit three Hope Online Sites in Denver. If you are unfamiliar with this program, basically it is a way for students to go to school using online currilum as a major part of their education. However, every single one of the “schools” that I visited today were completely different, and I really enjoed each one for different reasons.
The first one that I went to had an amazing elementary program. The teachers were supplimenting the online curriculum beautifully. One teacher/mentor had thousands of books for kids to choose from in a warm and cozy classroom. It was wonderful to see such thoughtfulness being used when trying to find a balence between computer time and offline time.
The second center I went to was high school only and they seemed to be very focused on getting the kids all of the health and mental services supports that they needed in order to help them graduate. They were much more interested in making sure the kid was safe and keeping their nose to the grindstone in order to ensure their success in the program. It did leave very little time for offline work, however.
The third center I saw was quite frankly one of the best run schools I have come across. They had a huge emphasis on professional development and ensuring that every kid was being tracked and looked after according to their individual needs. They taught arabic as the required language and the online component really only enhanced their already strong curriculum.
These are school choices in Colorado.
I guess I never knew that there were so many different ways that schools can look. Being so isolated in traditional schools, or even in an online school, I think I forget that education can really look different. Now, I would never say that all ways of educating students are good. Nor would I say that any one institution has got everything going right. What I would say, however, is that by looking at different ways of learning, I realize just how valuable choice is.
But, here is where my push for change comes in. I don’t want students and parents to only be making the choices school by school. I want them to be making the choices within every school. I want students to be able to choose an inclusing elementary classroom, a rigorous online middle school curriculum, and a free high school atmosphere (and every possible other combination too). I want students, parents and teachers to be able to design what kind of learning really is going to work for their students and I want all three stakeholders to feel supported in their decision.
I want to be able to make a singular student’s situation better within the school that they currently attend, rather than having them opt in to a different school. But how do we do that? How is it that we can help schools to be able to do everything, to be all things to all kids?