Schooling Magazine

Open Mic

By Stevemiranda

Tomorrow is the last day of the year for PSCS students. To celebrate, we held an open mic event for anyone who wanted to sing, play music, or otherwise perform.

My favorite moment came when one of our four teachers picked up a guitar and sang to an audience for the first time. He acknowledged his nerves before playing, explaining that this was his first public performance. He nailed the song, and everyone cheered.

What a gift to the students! We’re always encouraging them to step outside their comfort zone, to challenge themselves, to turn their passion into achievement, to start something, to make something happen.

Easy for us to say, right? The teacher’s role is, typically, to be in charge. To know all the answers. To be the sage. How often do students ever get to see their teachers take a risk? How often do students ever get to see their teachers be vulnerable?

Of course, this kind of moment didn’t just happen out of nowhere. It emerged because of how the school is designed. It emerged because PSCS founder Andy Smallman started the school with a very specific set of principles: the first focus of the program should be maintaining a safe, supportive, caring environment; teachers’ primary job is not to deliver academic content, but to serve as role models.

I’m not writing this post to suggest that classroom teachers in traditional schools should suddenly start taking risks and being vulnerable in their classrooms. In many schools, this simply wouldn’t work because the safe, caring environment hasn’t been established.

I’m writing in hopes that we can create new kinds of schools, designed according to a completely different set of assumptions.

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