First Name Basis?

Recently I was allowed to go into a charter elementary and middle school that was very, very interesting.

The students called their teachers by their first names. What?

Yes. I am being completely serious. There were second graders calling their teachers James and Diana. It was definitely something that I had to adjust to, but today I just wanted to recount my experience in the school.

Project-Based Learning

This school had a curriculum that is project based. This means there are certain guidelines that teachers have to follow when making their lessons, but all of them are based on class or individual projects. For example, instead of getting a worksheet and learning about lighthouses students would read a story, create their own lighthouse, figure out how to power that lighthouse, learn about the weather that a lighthouse had to see through, and maybe even go visit a lighthouse or look up ones that operate nearby online. This holistic style of learning allows each class to get a complete understanding of a subject. The teachers of different subjects also coordinate. If in science students are learning about rocks, then they will be using rocks or equations about rocks in math, they will be singing about rocks in music, and they will be reading books about rocks in their reading class. I think this style of learning is engaging and effective. I saw firsthand how excited the students were to learn and to be in class. They were engaged in the activity they were participating in and were able to learn invaluable lessons like group cooperation and time management.


Emphasis on Community

This school also has a large emphasis on community as a whole. The different classes all have a morning meeting where they come together to greet each other and share about their days in the morning, which allows for the classroom to operate not only as grounds for learning, but also for building genuine relationships. This helps to cultivate fast friendships that are invaluable for young students. No only does the school focus on relationships within the classroom, but they focus on community relationships as well. Each Friday is focused on service learning where students have a chance to participate in service activities dedicated to causes in the community around them. They learn the needs of the people that they live with and try to help where they can. They also are really aware of the community around them. The teachers take them on walking tours of the different businesses surrounding the school so that the students know the larger community in which the school plays a big part.

Emphasis on Holistic Learning

No only do the students focus on learning inside the classroom, but there is big emphasis on all different types of learning. The school has a kitchen and the students take cooking classes where they sometimes make meals for the whole school. There is also ample amount of time for recess where the whole school plays together, just another way that they emphasize community. They take care of chickens, they have art classes, they go to the library, there are just so many different ways that the school allows the students to learn and grow, not only as students, but as children growing into adults.

I really am interested in the way this school is run and am excited to learn more as I continue to observe!



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3 Responses to First Name Basis?

  1. jhelms94 says:

    Wow this school sounds awesome! I went to a very basic public school and it was nothing like this. Although calling teachers by their first names is very strange to me and some people may say not polite, I think it creates a closer student-teacher relationship. The students may not feel so intimidated by the teacher if they call them by their first name. Also I love the fact that they have cooking classes and community focused activities. This sounds like a great program and I would love to learn more about it.


  2. Casper Rhay says:

    This sounds like such an interesting place to observe. Charters can be sooo cool. I wonder what the teachers think about all the collaboration/having to be plugged into what’s going on in other classes. It sounds like such a great way to build really strong connection (academically and socially). Enjoy your time!


  3. khjinni says:

    This school is definitely a place I would send my kids if I were a mom. To be honest, I’ve been to ridiculously expensive private schools, but neither of them had such motivating and holistic curriculum. I especially like that it gives opportunities for students to build social skills as well as academic intelligence. I’d like to learn more about your observations at this school. Examining the socioeconomic background of the students would be interesting. Good luck on your observation!


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