Tag Archives: Chicago Free School

Schools Where Student Voices Matter, Part II

5001904133_b0545c99e4Building the Chicago Free School

(Read part I of this post here.)

In my quest to become a different kind of educator and to find joy and satisfaction in teaching again, I spent the 2012-2013 school year teaching at the Free School in Albany, NY.  Founded in 1969, the Free School is the epitome of a school that really values the voices of students in directing their own learning.  Without grades or required classes, each student at the Free School pursues an individualized course of learning based on their own interests and following their own trajectory of development.  Students take ownership of their learning and can request classes and activities on the subjects and topics they are most excited about.  Learning math, for example, can take the form of a small-group class, an independent study guided by a teacher, an impromptu lesson in fractions while doubling a cake recipe in the kitchen, or a group of peers getting together to practice arithmetic.
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Schools Where Student Voices Matter, Part 1

5001904133_b0545c99e4Building the Chicago Free School

As we work to build the Chicago Free School, a democratic school where the curriculum is driven by students’ choices and interests, we speak frequently to parents who are frustrated that their children are unhappy in school.  From a child in a gifted kindergarten who felt anxious because he was “behind” his peers in reading, to a girl whose creative pursuits in the humanities were finding less space as her middle-school curriculum became increasingly rigid, to an energetic boy bursting with questions who didn’t seem to quite fit the mold of traditional school, these bright, curious kids need a voice in school – they need a school experience suited to their unique strengths and passions, a place where their intrinsic motivation is celebrated rather than being seen as a disruption to the schedule.
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