More than always wanting to be a teacher, I’m one of those people who has always been a teacher. Getting my first pedagogical practice on a brother 7 years my junior, I eventually graduated from informal lessons in how to catch grasshoppers, how to write your name, how to field a grounder, and how to play “Heart and Soul” on the piano; I was assistant coaching youth basketball and T-ball teams and an assistant leader to a Girl Scout troop before I was old enough to drive. At 18, my part-time job at the grocery store suddenly morphed so that I was planning and conducting all of the new hire orientations. Attending college to become certified to teach was so obvious it has never felt like a choice: teaching for me is truly a calling. Experiencing a truly great high school English teacher helped me to choose a content: with English, I could continue to teach, well, everything.
Wasting no time, I was substitute teaching in my alma mater a year after I graduated high school. I graduated with a BA in English in 2002 and was student teaching in the winter of 2003-2004. Two months after graduation with an MAT in English Education, I was hired to teach 8th grade ELA in a rural district in upstate NY. My grade-level team members encouraged me to continue to evolve as an educator. They taught me about conflict resolution, the value of working within a broken system so as to change it, and the benefit of collaboration with like-minded individuals. So when they suggested that I pursue another degree in educational leadership so as to better leverage myself to make the kinds of changes we were always discussing, it seemed like the logical thing to do. We even had a name for this utopian school with decentralized leadership and experiential education: Kette and Gwinno’s School in the Woods.
The idea of our School in the Woods springs from a recognition that there is no longer a consensus surrounding the purpose of a free and compulsory education. Our school, metaphorical only for now, scrapped the Prussian model entirely in favor of a more portable, autonomous, and student-directed educational system, one not unlike what Salman Khan has called The One World Schoolhouse in the title of his newest book. This blog is my attempt to move from theory to practice; by articulating, for one thing, the need for a shift away from a teacher-directed, nationalized and standardized educational model, I hope this blog serves as a call to arms: its intention is to engage various stakeholders in advocating for purposeful educational reform. I hope you will join us.