Unlike most students who spend K-12 in a brick and mortar school I had the opportunity to spend my 4th to 9th grade years home schooling with my brothers and sister. Home schooling is looked down on by many but for me it is what helped me find a love of learning and taught me to have an open mind. Through home schooling I was able to learn that learning does not only take place in a classroom but can be found anywhere.
In the beginning of my sophomore year, when my family moved, we were happy to find the amazing Denali Borough School District. The schools were just implementing a new standards-based learning program. The district was also giving all students in grades 6 to 12 a laptop.
As I read Ted Kolderie’s paper I found that what school and schooling could be like in the future match what Denali Borough School District is already doing, and Denali Borough is also addressing many of the problems that need to be addressed. Rather than students trying to get through a course or class in a year with the rest of the kids their age, classes were taught by levels. For instance, my sister was the age of a fourth grader and was in level four math with many other kids her age; but at the same time she was in level two reading because she struggles with the subject. I find this amazing. In other schools our family has attended my siblings who struggle with reading were left behind or made to feel dumb, but in our district students are not defined by grades. Every student is challenged and pushed but is also allowed to truly learn the concept being taught. When we started the school year we knew what we had to accomplish before we could move out of that level. We as students found this type of teaching and learning style to be motivating. When students are allowed to learn at their own pace they feel empowered and find a love of learning.
In 2004 the district provided access to laptops, another innovative approach to learning in the 21st century. We were able to write papers, take notes and submit papers via email. I found that when I was able to be involved in my learning I was more motivated to do the work assigned. And, in a world that is trying to reduce and reuse this was one of the greatest ways to reduce.
I found that the transition between high school and college was much easier for me than for other students my age. I had an advantage over other freshmen because throughout high school I was responsible for doing my work and moving through levels. I could not just show up to class and try to slide by with a low grade. We were expected to get eighty percent or better. I took this mentality with me to college and approached every class knowing that I must work and do my part to achieve good grades.
I think that many of my fellow freshmen found it harder to apply themselves because they still had the mindset that you could show up, do the minimum amount of work, and pass. That is just not so at the college level. I also had a technological advantage having spent most of my high school years using the most up-to-date technology. My college, like many others, is just now moving towards all students having their own laptop. But many students do not even know some basic programs like Microsoft PowerPoint and Word.
With the many experiences and opportunities I have had throughout my school years I have a big advantage over the students who were educated in a traditional school system. If our nation were able to find a way to implement standards, individual learning paces, and technology into all schools I believe we would find students who are more motivated and care about their education. Grades would go up and there would be fewer dropouts than in the past.