Updated: Aug 5
I love learning. I did well in school and had some very positive experiences. I loved it so much, in fact, I decided to become a teacher. I majored in secondary education in college and entered the world of teaching with a revolutionary mindset. I wanted to change the world by impacting students; however, studying educational theory from a classroom is so very different from practicing teaching in a classroom; I quickly found that theory and practice do not align. What educational theorists suggest are best practices, do not actually work well in a traditional classroom that prioritizes data and results. But I found ways to incorporate student centered strategies into a traditional classroom. I used flexible seating, and grouped students into pods. We completed activities that required kids to engage in conversations and think critically about documents or pictures. I even held Socratic seminars over difficult topics with no clear answer. I compromised. I did the best I could in the setting in which I worked. I even had dreams of “changing the system” one day. And it seemed to work– for a while.
After six years of teaching history in public school in Memphis, I moved back to my hometown, Jonesboro, AR. and began teaching English at my alma mater. Here I have been confronted with problems that I was able to blissfully ignore as a history teacher: forcing kids to all do the same thing, because “that’s the curriculum” even though they find it completely irrelevant to their lives; trying to motivate them to care about tasks that I don’t even care about because we’re just doing it to “check a box” because the state told us to; trying to teach grade level content to kids who can’t even read on grade level but have been shuffled along year after year, never really mastering any skill and always falling through the cracks. The problems are endless. I used to believe that I was making a difference, if only for the students in my own classroom, but every year I feel like I have less of a positive impact on students because of the limitations that are placed on me as a teacher. The longer I teach, the more I feel like I am part of the problem by being a part of the system that is broken.
While there are enumerable problems with the traditional school setting, I could probably continue on making the best of it for myself and my students, but I then consider my oldest daughter. She is 5 and is scheduled to start kindergarten in the fall. I know, firsthand, how broken the system is and I worry that her time and talents will be wasted in such a school. She is so curious and motivated. Her interests are wide and varied; she wants to know everything and asks so many questions. She has already mastered 80% of what the state of Arkansas says she should learn in kindergarten– not because I have pushed her, but because she is so thirsty for knowledge and I take every opportunity to quench that thirst. For her, I want more.
As a teacher, I know what works– and what doesn’t. I face a crisis of conscience everyday in the classroom being forced to do what I know is not best. This internal conflict has led me to seek alternatives to the traditional education system. This is when I discovered the concept of a microschool. I was vaguely aware that schools like this existed, but there is nothing like this in my community at all. I see the opportunity of opening microschool in Northeast Arkansas as a confluence of my passion for meaningful education, my triumphs and struggles as a teacher in the public school setting, and my desire to make a positive change for my family and in the community I love. We are ready for change, and I am ready to lead the way.