A PERFECT school?

The schools system in my country is FAR from perfect (and I guess it’s the same mostly everywhere else), and I’m planning on opening a private school here (México), and I want it to be as good as possible.
I have several ideas, and I could use some help from you guys. Please criticize these ideas, and add as many as you want.

I firmly believe that the only possible solution (loooooong term) for the problems of this planet -pollution, global warming, wars, ozone layer depletion, famine, discrimination and racism, hatred, bigotry, etc, etc, is to start teaching our children how to think, and STOP the population growth.
Now, here are some of my ideas for a “perfect” school:

*Let a group of students and teachers design the school (buildings and grounds), they will be the users after all.
*Let morals be taught at home.
*Teach the children to debate at an early age.
*Grant scholarships to those who can’t afford a regular fare.
*Review the school’s results every now and then, and change whatever’s needed.
*Etc, etc.

I have many more ideas, but I don’t think I need to post them. Please put your two cents in, they’ll be more than welcome!

Men will cease to commit atrocities only when they cease to believe absurdities.

Sounds like a pretty good plan to me.
(Although you might want to limit student input on the design, lest you end up with a school building consisting of monkey bars and volleyball nets). :slight_smile:

How 'bout teaching Logic (could go along with debating)?
Here’s some things I think kids should be exposed to in school:

  1. More emphasis on foreign languages. Not just so they can pass a class but actually communicate with others from different countries.
  2. The basics of personal finance. How to balance a check book, what is credit and what it really costs, etc. I remember opening my first checking account and not knowing how to figure out my bank statement.
  3. How to interview for a job, do a resume etc. BAsic life skills.
  4. Being a literature buff, emphasis on world literature, and in consequence with that, coming to a better understanding of the countries that produced that literature.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, make your students ready to handle their personal world but also be able to deal with the world-at-large without predjudices. Help them learn to think.

Good luck!

…it has never been my way to bother much about things which you can’t cure.

  • A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court-Mark Twain

Your plan sounds good, but I’d say too good for the majority of Mexican families.

My experience here has been that the “sistema tradicional” of sending 5-year-olds home with 10 pages of homework every night is so ingrained in parents’ minds, that anything less seems to be substandard.

My daughter goes to a new bilingual school in the DF, and many of her classmates were taken out midyear because the active-learning model (Piaget, Decroly, inter alia) is too “experimental” for most parents–they think that their kids aren’t learning anything because they plant cucumber seeds instead of reading about what would happen if you planted cucumber seeds.

Not to mention, her school uses the whole lanugage model which works well for us but is utter blasphemy for parents who use the neighbor’s SEP-educated (and invariably academically frustrated) kids as a benchmark.

(insert pro-phonics diatribe here)

From the way you describe it, your school will be excellent, especially with the planned continuous improvement and encouragement of discourse, which are so lacking here.

“Anything is peaceful from one thousand, three hundred and fifty-three feet.”

I’ve been a student for the last 13 years (if you count kindergarten), I’ve gone to lots of very different schools (some good, some bad), and since I am planning on teaching one day, I’ve watched to see what seems to work and what just hurts students. This is what I’ve figured out:

Don’t pass kids who really failed. It doesn’t help their self-esteem, it re-enforces bad habits.

Don’t make classes so easy that kids can’t help but pass. Give them a challenge and they’ll live up to it.

Don’t separate kids into categories like “Below Level” “On Level” “Advanced”, it makes the lower level kids feel stupid and they don’t even bother to try. And it prevents the kids who understand from helping those who don’t. If a kid really doesn’t get it, tutor him, get a peer to tutor him, but don’t drop him down to the “dumb” classes.

Don’t teach for the test. Teach the class, and use the test to see if they understand. I HATE when teachers spend the whole year just preparing you for final exams.

Lots of time and attention. Long enough classes to master difficult subjects, less busy working wasting time, and fewer students per teacher.

Allow kids to disagree with you. If a student has a legitimate grievance about the answer to a problem (books are sometimes wrong) or even school policy (people are, too), listen to him or her, and really consider what you are being told. And, please , don’t just sit there pretending to listen just to very nicely tell the kid to buzz off.

Show students how what they are learning connects to other subjects and the world around them. If you are teaching the Renaissance in history, you can show kids what scientific advances were made in science class, you can read great works from the period in English, you can study architectural advances in math, and you can show kids examples of how this affects their world. It makes it more real.

Okay, that’s all I can think of. Maybe more later.

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.
– Henry David Thoreau

Thanks guys!

I think we can start something here. :slight_smile:

Here are some more ideas for you to check and criticize:

*Teach the children from the very beginning (as a game, maybe) other types of communication like braille, or *sign language[i/]
*Have a board to prepare and deliver tests, based on the program, excluding the teacher from the test (obvious reasons, I presume)
*Teach music as an extracurricular subject (6 year-olds being exposed to music and its notation every day, without forcing it)
*Let the school grow VERY slowly (grades 1 and 2 the first year, 3 and 4 on the second, and so) to let everybody get used to a new system.
*Let (and encourage) parents to participate in regular school activities, not only in “special” ones.
*No homework until grade 4 or so.


I know what you’re talking about, and I agree. My oldest son is in “Segundo de Secundaria” (grade 8), and he will not be permitted to attend classes next year because he is wearing an earing. The “sistema tradicional” is ingrained in teachers as well. I think it is time to do something about it, or this country is NEVER going to grow.
BTW, Mariachi, just curiosity, are you mexican? Mándame un mail, ¿sí?

Thanks again to you all! Keep sending ideas, please… :slight_smile:

Men will cease to commit atrocities only when they cease to believe absurdities.

I went to an elementary/junior high school which was part of the public school system, but was kind of experimental. We had huge classes (about 60 kids) but several teachers, so the student/teacher ratio was about the same as a traditional class. It was a “Community School” and this meant what it sounds like. The students were always going to the senior citizen’s home across the street and they would often visit us. It wasn’t just for Christmas plays and such, but to talk to them and talk about life on the prairies through the years, etc. This was great for the kids and the senior citizens, who seemed to really enjoy working with kids during the day. The elementary school was basically a big square with a library in the centre and few interior walls. If you wanted to leave your desk and read in the library, fine. Since it was all open, the teachers could see you if you had to be called back to class for something. This sounds like it would be chaotic, but it worked pretty well. We also had a lot of independent study projects - if a subject struck your fancy, you could do some research on it and teach it to the class. (This would be about grade 3 or 4) Let me tell you, from doing presentations in front of a class from the age of eight, I have zero fear of public speaking now.
The junior high part was kind of entwined with the elementary part, although they were technically separate schools. The “little kids” could use the “grown up” library in the bigger school.
We also had split classes, that is, two grades in one class. Sorry if I am rambling on, but your question made me all sentimental for my school days (sniff!). I hope that your school is successful, it sounds great! Take heart about it not being accepted by “traditional” families - I grew up in a rough around the edges, blue collar neighbourhood where “artsy-fartsy-hippie-type-stuff” wasn’t very popular, and the school thrived. Good luck and let us know how things turn out!
Oh, yes, there was one rule that I remember very well: We were not allowed to use the words “nice” or “said”. Any other word was OK, but those words were considered too bland to be of any real use. One of my teachers explained it this way - “There are 700,000 words in English. If you can’t come up with a better, more creative and expressive synonym for either of those words, then there is something really wrong!” This is still burned into my brain 20 years later.

Heh…Hemingway would have had a fit!

He was, of course, trained as a journalist, but even in his novels, he consciously refused to have his characters “exclaim” or “reply”–they almost always “said”.

Having been a victi - um, client of the educational system for lo these many years, I’d add to my wishlist:

Absolutely do not tolerate bullying of any sort. “Boys will be boys” is the worst thing any bullied child can hear. If I were a parent (I’m not, fortunately), I’d say, “Not around my son/daughter, they won’t!” In general, please try to break down social hierarchies.

No uniforms. Please, no uniforms. Contrary to the right wing’s back-to-the-nineteenth-century claims, uniforms do jack shit to encourage “school unity” or “egalitarianism” or any of that. I should know. As soon as I got out of my school-with-uniforms and entered my school-without-uniforms it was SO much easier to be myself, and I never observed anyone being harassed or otherwise suffering ill effects for it. Besides which, it’s an infringement on freedom of expression. A (loose) dress code if you must, but NO UNIFORMS. Never never never.

Please make sports an option, or at least offer some kind of sports for those who don’t have the energy, musculature, or inclination to tear around for two hours. I was so happy when I got to college and was able to take yoga and stress management. (Not because I’m a slacker; because running around etc. just makes me feel awful.)

Finally, I could have done without one of my high school semesters of calculus in exchange for a HOME ECONOMICS PROGRAM. Get with it. Not everyone will need calculus, but EVERYONE (boys and girls, duh), will need to know how to fix food, clean house, balance checkbooks, etcetera. Don’t assume that their parents will teach them cos they often won’t.

I’m sorry, btw, if I sound bitchy in my post. my angrier sentiments are directed to my own school system, not at you.

a small addition: it’s often easy to forget that there are people of all different backgrounds and futures in one’s class. please try to remember. it would have been so much better in high school if just one person had recognized that there might be a proto-gay, proto-pagan nerd in there somewhere among the herd of straight judeo-christian jocks. fortunately, my coming out shook up my old school a bit, and i hope that my successors won’t have as huge a problem.

and a plug for the library science profession: recuerda las bibliotecas!! :slight_smile:

Interesting thread. My son, 6, is in a multi-age program in his elementary school. The class consists of 6-, 7- & 8-year-olds (traditionally 1st, 2nd and 3rd graders). Fifty kids, two teachers and a para-professional. It was simply amazing to see and hear my son develop and recognize new concepts with the help of the “older” kids in his class. The curriculum is basically the same as in traditional classrooms but the setup is somewhat different.

For instance, in science class the students are introduced to turtles. The entire class will start at the first grade level. Following the initial introduction, the class is broken up into small workgroups of four or five. The workgroups consist of an 8-year-old, two 7-year-olds and two 6-year-olds. The 8-year-old is essentially the team captain. The workgroup will study the subject and present a detailed report with the information they are able to gather. The 6- and 7-year-olds are learning how to research and communicate from the 8-year-olds, while the 8-year-olds are learning to lead a small team, communicate and work more intently with the teachers. While this system is somewhat progressive (read: controversial), it seems to alleviate boredom, introduce new ways of learning and it permits much more hands-on than traditional classrooms. From my perspective the jury is still out. But I have a hard time believing he would be better off not in this class.

Well this is an exceptionally complex issue, and alot of the ideas are kinda stupid in my opinion. I’ll lay out some of the isssues to start with.

  1. The design of the school is best left to a Architect, layout is rarely a big problem, and the pros know about the ideal situations to use. Some inportant things to include if the Architect is not creative, I had the benefit of moving into a brand new school half way thru my 4 years (thanks to a Tornado) so I experinced the old version and the new: Natural light is a must, do not settle for lots of Florecent lights, Lots of windows that allow for fresh air and good circulation, don’t skimp on the AC, comfort is critical for learning. Customize the desks/tables/audtorium style seats for each class. Sciences require tables, desks are good for math, and heavy lecture stuff like histroy requires the college audtorium seats with the fold out arms.

It would really help to know more about the ages you want to deal with, and focus on here.

  1. Phys. Ed. is a must, make it fun and freeform, but don’t let kids get lazy.

  2. Include a life skills type of class, stuff like home finacial planning, career planning, home economics (you know cooking), sex ed including birth control, STD’s and real world info, positive body image stuff including dietary ed., dangers of eating disorders and instruction on good nutrition and excercise. I’d say make this a life skills class, and each year change the content to suit the age eg. The senior year Life skills (LS) would be career planning, sophomore LS being home finacial, Freshman LS being sex ed., 8th grade LS body image and nutrition, and so on.

One hard issue is balancing the need for variety and the amount of time to adequately learn everything. Now if you add a life skills, PE, lunch that may not leave time for everyone to take music, art, math, a few sciences, languages, lit, and speech. Now you must choose whether or not you want to make everything optional, or what to make optional. Lets be honest, lots of kids may not take any math given a choice, but it is the most important thing if you want the go on to college, everyone may take art, but it is worthless in the real world for 99.9999% of people. Everyone needs exposure, but how much? I know I was forced to take way more useless classes that I would perfered spending in PE, and I needed much more health class (we only spent a semester on sex/nutrition/STDs/mental health/parenting etc) Also we needed a beter government class that looked at both local, state, and national government.

  1. Lay on the computers thick, from a early age.

  2. Don’t use one all purpose level as has been suggested. The downside is that it can make the dumb kids not try, but then it holds back all the smart kids, and really makes them lazy and hinders groth. I definately think you must set up gifted programs, but then there must be a incentive to getthe slower kids to catch up.

  3. Avoid this stupid montessori idea. Grades are critical, and results matter in the real world. It may make everyone feel shiny happy without the report cards, but the kids need to learn to work with deadlines and expectations. Maybe use a progressive style in the very young, and you may get away with lumping the 5-8 year olds together, but the older kids need grades, deadlines and structure to be pushed.

  4. Personal opinion here, but literature is useless for anything but leisure. We were forced to waste vast amounts of time reading outdated victorian literature, and too much shakespeare. I know its good stuff, but the time could have been better spent and I would enjoy reading more today had I not been burdened with it then. If you need literature spend equal time with the so called classics and modern fiction and non fiction.

  5. No uniforms, this goes to the comfort issue, and it breeds a unindividualistic environment where creativity is stifled.

  6. Treat the kids like people. Let them sort out their own problems to a extent.

  7. Don’t teach straight from the book, that does no one any good.

I’m sure there are alot of other things I could add, but this is a start. Just don’t overreact to the school crisis going on today. Uniforms, God, strict punishment on bullies, eliminating originality, and high security and guards are not the answer.

The facts expressed here belong to everybody, the opinions to me. The distinction is
yours to draw…

Omniscient; BAG

How does that work? After the first year do the eight yr olds move on and and the other kids move up a step? If so, would they have to start over and teach the same thing again for the new 6 yr olds? Or do they keep the same classes and always have the youngest kids as “underlings”?

It has been my experience that the kids who are put in lower level classes simply give up. They assume that not much is expected from them, and they resign themsleves to the idea that they are stupid. Because of this, they do not do as well or learn nearly as much as those in higher level classes. In every school I’ve been to without designated “levels” of learning, the kids who understood helped those who didn’t, and in doing so helped themselves. It is a reasonable concern that grouping them all together will hold back the brighter kids, but why not offer extra-credit projects that allows those interested to really explore a subject?

Literature is at least as important to every-day life as is history. It is necessary to an understanding of the world around you and to communication. You may not “use” Shakespeare, but everyday you use words and expressions that he created. Don’t you want to know where it comes from? Literature changes the world, and you need an understanding of it to comprehend that world.

This I agree with. A friend of mine began senior English reading The Canterbury Tales, and ended with Catch-22. Modern literature is every bit as important as ye olde English.


Any teacher who says “this is going to be difficult” or “you probably won’t get this right away” should be fired. It does no good to tell kids that they can’t and then expect them to try.

More on “busy work” (my pet peeve):
Teachers like to throw out what they like to call “an easy 100”. I call it a waste of time. This most often takes the form of a worksheet which is no more than a paragraph taken directly from the book. Here and there a word is missing, and it is your job to fill in the blanks. Whoever decided that this was an easy way to get kids to read their books never actually entered a high school classroom. Busy work also includes giving students three days to finish something that actually took 45 minutes (even for the slower students of the class).

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.
– Henry David Thoreau

Matt: Don’t worry, you didn’t sound bitchy at all, and I appreciate your input.

Omniscient: I agree with the architect designing the school, after WE tell him how we want it. Thanks for your ideas.

Thanks to you all! It’s really encouraging to see that I’m not the only one who wants to change things for better. :slight_smile:

Men will cease to commit atrocities only when they cease to believe absurdities.