Traditional school is not the right place for everyone. This has always been true, but we finally seem to be arriving at a moment of consensus. Altschool is making a big media splash with the support of google execs and Mark Zuckerberg, and personalized learning is suddenly something people have heard of.
We had not reached this cultural understanding when I was a student, unfortunately, and my poor-fit seemed to be some kind of personal flaw. High school was a negative place for me, and it took me a long time to recover my sense of self and to find my way again after I left.
Years later I began my masters program in Education planning to become the teacher I didn’t have. One semester into the standard track, however, and I knew that school didn’t work for me as a kid, and it wasn’t going to work for me as an adult, either. I needed to find another way to serve, because the traditional system is not a good place for me to be. I need flexibility and independence. I’m a kinesthetic person- I need to move. I don’t like to do things just because it’s a rule, and I need better lighting than most schools have to offer.
Spoiled? Perhaps… But when I was a teen I didn’t feel spoiled, I felt ill. As a graduate student, I didn’t feel spoiled, I felt inspired, and I still do. But my inspiration doesn’t fit in a school-sized container, and so I’ve found other ways to teach and support students who are like me: individuals.
I am so heartened this week to hear the news of Altschool and the colossal amount of money they are raising. $100 million, apparently. Wow. This week they’ve been written about in Wired, Tech Crunch, and many other places. Personalized learning is on the map in a whole new way, and this is good for everyone.
After graduate school, Montessori training, and two years of Montessori teaching, I started at North Star: Self-Directed Learning for Teens in Hadley, MA. For 20 years North Star has been supporting teens to direct their own lives and educations. Self-directed and individualized, with 20 years of alumni to show for ourselves: alumni who have gone on to become college professors, performers, and professionals of all kinds. North Star has hundreds of alumni who learned how to direct their own lives and learning, and have moved forward as visionaries, self-advocates, and independent thinkers.
Now I’m on to my next project working with Josiah Litant: LightHouse Personalized Education for Teens, opening in September in Holyoke, MA. Our new program is very similar to Altschool, but for teens. We say, “Expand your vision of what education can be.” and Altschool says “Reimagine the educational experience.” Personalized learning is on the scene. It is a good day for all learners and families to have it shouted from the media rooftops: traditional school is not the right place for everyone, and better, viable options are now available.