I attended Clara Barton Open, a K-8 public magnet school in Southwest Minneapolis, Minnesota from 1991 to 2000. The Open school philosophy at Barton was a hybrid of a stiff, fixed-path education, and a completely self-guided education. Pressure on students to perform was not handled by grades but through teacher-to-student and teacher-to-parent communication. I wasn’t subject to a grading system until 7th grade.
At Barton, a student’s classroom setting only changes once every two years instead of every year in order for the teacher and the student to become familiar with each other. Teachers probably understand children better than anyone, yet in standard schools we don’t allow them enough time to get to know a student and adjust to the student’s needs. Having a comfortable and familiar place to trudge through middle school was beneficial in sparking my curiosity in different subjects.
Barton tried to find ways to incorporate new subjects into an already full curriculum. One way they did that was by offering once a week classes called “Options.” For an hour and a half each Wednesday teachers, parents, older siblings, and older students would teach a class that they designed. The subjects included Ojibwa language classes and a variety of arts and crafts. My personal favorite was “Take It Apart” where students would dismantle unusable electronics to find out what was inside. Options were always something to look forward to. Students usually liked them because registering for Options was left to the student, and they could discover what interests them. It also gave people outside of school employees, such as parents and volunteers, the chance to interact with students and become involved.
In the standard academic setting the majority of students will never get the chance to develop in-depth relationships with any of their teachers. They may never get to take a comic book making class, or nature walk class. It takes a certain type of school and a certain type of setting to make these relationships and choices possible.
I found my education to be broad and diverse, yet completely sufficient in letting me succeed in a standard public high school. Ted Kolderie’s theory pushes us towards accepting new ideas in education and creative solutions to current problems. The current standard school system tries to confine diversity. Kolderie wants us to embrace diversity by creating a schooling system that may have the same ultimate goal, but many different ways to achieve it. By creating different types of schools that cater to different people’s interests and needs, students get a huge head start in finding their motivation, and eventually becoming educated in a way that is useful in their life.