What is the rule about the school you attended or attend? Would you change or add; the strangest?
What specific features of the school do you think are especially useful, or would change?
How well it prepared or is preparing you for life.
You are going to read about real but unusual schools. The teacher will tell you that you are A, B, or C in turn. Make groups of three or four, with each group being all the same letter, e.g. AAAA, BBBB, CCCC.
Sands School, in the town of Ashburton, England, is a day school for children aged 10 to 18. It is based on the value of social equality between students and staff and has few rules. Sands believes that the well-being of a child is more important than academic success. It offers a variety of lessons and activities for students to choose from, and free time for children to follow their own interests. Classes are small and based on the individual needs of each child. The timetable is fixed, but democratically decided, and students are expected to attend.
The weekly school meeting is at the centre of the way Sands is organized. It makes all the decisions that affect the school, including rules, the timetable, and accepting or rejecting new students and teachers. Participating in these meetings gives the children an understanding of democratic decision-making, and helps them develop their skills of argument and persuasion. The most important advantage of the school meeting is that it shows the children that the school is really theirs. They have the right to decide on changes, and the school’s success or failure depends on their decisions and their behavior.
Sands employs no cooking or cleaning staff; these jobs are done by the students and teachers. Decorating and simple repairs are also done by the students. There are three reasons for doing this. Firstly, it saves money, so that school fees can be kept as low as possible. Secondly, it gives people the opportunity to learn practical skills in a practical way that is more memorable than a lesson. Finally, the school feels that it is wrong to encourage the idea that there is a social group or level of people in society whose job it is to serve. For the school to truly belong to those who use it, they must take responsibility for its maintenance.
Brockwood Park School is a boarding school set in the beautiful English countryside for students aged 14 to 20. It was founded bythe philosopher and educator Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895-1986) in 1969. The intentions of the school include giving students anappreciation of the natural world, our place in it, and responsibility for it. It also encourages students to explore freedom and responsibility in relationship to other people in society. Physical, psychological, and spiritual health are among its aims. Each school day begins before breakfast at 7.45 am with the morning meeting. All students and staff sit quietly together for ten minutes to encourage self-reflection. Sometimes someone plays music or reads a poem. The intention of the morning meeting is to begin the day quietly together. Everyone is required to attend. The day ends at 9.30 pm, and students should be in their rooms at 10.00 pm. Having a maximum of 60 students gives the school a relaxed family feeling. It has a number of ‘Agreements, which are similar to rules, but reviewed every year by staff and students and can change. Students also help with the day-to-day decision-making, and everyone assists in the care of the grounds and buildings, and with other small jobs like washing the dishes after meals. One Agreement is that all staff and students are vegetarian, and a great deal of attention is given to preparing meals. Many ingredients are grown in the school’s large vegetable garden, which students help care for. Another Agreement is that students must follow a balanced educational program which they and the school consider reasonable. Students cooperate with teachers in planning their individualized study programs, where environmental education, human development, and visual and performing arts are equally as important as maths, sciences, and languages. There are classes every morning and afternoon, and in the early evenings there are also classes, meetings, and other activities.
C Albany Free School is based on freedom and democratic principles, with students and staff taking decisions together at a weekly meeting. But unlike many similar schools, this one is also open to children of the poor. It has children aged 2 to 14, and nobody is rejected for financial reasons. It is located in a racially and socio-economically mixed neighborhood of central New York. About half of the children come from the inner city, a quarter from richer neighborhoods, and the remainder from surrounding suburbs and towns. Approximately 80 percent of them are poor enough to qualify for a free or reduced-price breakfast and lunch. In some ways, Albany Free School is like a normal school with books, computers, and other equipment. Some rooms even have blackboards and desks. In other ways, it is very different. It does not have a curriculum or even any compulsory classes. Classroom sessions are informal and last only as long as children remain interested. Learning happens best when children want to learn. There are no tests either. External rewards or threats are less motivating than an inner desire to learn. There is generally more noise than quiet, with children moving around constantly and playing freely
Learning certainly happens at Albany Free School, but differently. Dally maths and reading classes are provided for those who want them, but there is no typical day at the school. Every day develops according to any number of influences, from spontaneous ideas for activities or outings to world events. There are ongoing projects too, often in the surrounding city or doing work for charity organizations. The school runs a small farm on the block, where students learn the basics of working with animals and growing flowers, herbs, and vegetables. Older students take part in a wide-ranging training program, working with actors, magicians, chefs, carpenters, midwives, lawyers, vets, archaeologists, computer programmers, and even pilots.
Read the text based on what the teacher already told you and help your group with anything you do not understand.
type of school?
type of students?
daily routine or program?
Discuss the points and make notes.
What are the main similarities and differences between the schools?
What is the most surprising feature and why?
How do the schools compare with your own experiences?
Which school do you think is likely to be the most successful and why
Which school offers the best preparation for life?
Which school would you like to have attended and why?In groups of at least three, each group has a person who has read each text, e.g. ABC, ABC, ABC, ABC. Look at the questions above and you should tell each other about your text. Give your opinions and comments.
In your groups, use ideas from your notes on the schools, your experiences, and your own ideas to design the perfect school. You should think about:
– type of school?
– unusual features?
– type of students?
– daily routine or program?
– possible problems and how to avoid or deal with them?
Make notes about your daily routine.
Describe your ideas to the class. Vote on which school is:
a) the most interesting
b) the most unusual
c) likely to be the most successful
d) the best preparation for life
Listen to the audio about “A Day in My Life as a Japanese Student” and answer the questions.