This morning, I hope I’m not getting boring. (I know I’m already pretty boring.) In order to prevent that from getting worse, I’m going to try to wrap up this school idea and get back to the business of ranting.
The last major distinction for this school is: hours. Or OURS. I haven’t thought of a clever acronym yet, but I want to call it that anyway. This is where the students are going to take ownership of their school, by doing the necessary work to keep it running — hopefully under the tutelage of the teachers, if they are willing to take on the extra task, and if not, then with experts who are brought in from the community.
So the bell schedule I envision is five periods a day, each an hour long. Between first and second period is an Activity Break: this will, for students, take the place of PE. They will be required to participate in some form of physical activity: anything from walking around the block to lifting weights to playing a pickup game of whatever sport they wish, for 30 minutes. More strenuous exercise would need time to change before and shower after, but 20 minutes of lifting weights is a decent thing to do, and 30 minutes of kickball is more than enough — and would also burn off some of that demonic energy that small children have, so they could focus on their next class. Then periods 2 and 3 are back to back, with a 5-minute passing period in between; I envision some classes, some units, requiring a block schedule, and this is where that block would be. Then lunch, for 55 minutes to include plenty of time to digest or do homework and for teachers to relax; then 4th and 5th periods after lunch with another 30-minute activity period in between.
Teachers will teach either five periods, and have the activity periods and lunch off as their prep, or they will teach four periods and also run some physical activity during the 30-minute periods. (Teachers have all kinds of useful knowledge, including of sports, of exercise, of all kinds of interesting things like dance, or yoga, or zumba. What the hell do we need a PE teacher for? And even as non-jock as I am, I’m pretty sure I could teach kids to play kickball.) And of course, teachers will only work four days a week.
So what about that extra period? The one day a week that teachers don’t work, but students are in school? That’s when the students do OURS. So the idea is that basic maintenance, cleaning, landscaping, small repairs like paint and new hinges on doors and the like, could easily be performed by students with adult supervision. I suspect students could also be used to do office filing, make copies, and cook food for lunch. I would hope to be able to use teacher expertise for most of that: there would be a full-time supervising janitor, of course, but then a teacher could take a group of students out to mop floors, or wash windows, or mow the grass with non-dangerous tools. (I’m not sure my school would have grass, but it would depend where it was; if there’s grass, the students could mow it with hand trimmers or push mowers.) I’m sure that teachers could show students how to paint a wall, or maybe install a new pencil sharpener. None of the serious mechanical stuff, but all the tedious day-to-day things could be handled by students. This way, students get experience with the basic tasks of life, and they also learn to take pride in those simple tasks and the clean, well-functioning school they would be able to produce and maintain. I’d hope it would at least keep them from sticking gum on the desks, after they’d spent a few OURS cleaning the gum off. That’s also why I’d like teachers to run the work groups, even if it’s only sweeping the halls; that way the teachers can get to know the students, which would help ease the multiple transitions between two-week units.
I imagine a kitchen expert in charge of the food, with students to do the grunt work of chopping and mixing and washing and such, and maybe teachers could bring in and supervise recipes. After lunch there would be dishes to wash.
I imagine the younger kids participating in some of the cleaning chores, and maybe weeding and watering plants, raking rock gardens, things like that. I also imagine them emptying garbage cans and picking up recycling and litter. They could run messages back and forth from the office, so we could minimize THE GODDAMN P.A. SYSTEM COMING ON DURING CLASS AND DISRUPTING THE WHOLE SCHOOL TO CALL FOR ONE FREAKING STUDENT. And then maybe some beautification projects, some arts and crafts to decorate the school; why should teachers spend time making interesting bulletin boards when students could be forced to do it? Another activity that could be supervised by older students, of course.
I imagine this, as well, would serve as the basic discipline system for the school. When a student is disruptive in class, a teacher could send that student out of class to OURS for the remainder of the period. I suspect that class clownery would be reduced when it led to cleaning toilets for the last half of class.
If there’s not work (and I have no doubt that the amount of work available in maintaining a school is limitless) enough for the students, then OURS could be spent doing homework or studying; the advantage there would be that older, more proficient students could tutor younger ones, also improving community feeling. Teachers could also agree to supervise these work sessions on their days off for extra money.
I’d also think that older students could find ways to improve the school: like writing grants. Running work projects. Bake sales and fund raisers. Advertising campaigns to bring new students into the school. Teenagers are smart, and when there is a reason to be, motivated as well. They could do quite a lot to make our schools better if we’d just let them. I propose to let them.
I think that’s everything. Thank you for letting me dream of a school that will never, ever exist.